You are having the vacation of your life far away from home, and then…the unthinkable hits. You get a call from your credit card company explaining that someone is pretending to be you, charging up hundreds or thousands of dollars! You wonder how this could have happened. Truth is, you’re not alone. So many travelers have their identity stolen while abroad, whether it is through unauthorized credit card usage or the swiping of a passport. If you don’t want to be the next victim of identity theft on your next trip abroad, here are 9 high and low-tech tips to follow to make sure you’re protecting your identity while traveling abroad!
Don’t Do Your Banking or Make Purchases on Shared Wi-Fi Connections
One of the easiest ways to hand a crook your identity is by merely buying something on an unsecured connection or logging on to your banking site on an open Wi-Fi connection. For travelers, it’s best to do harmless browsing on open connections. If you’re using a public computer abroad, you will want to clear the cache and delete cookies once you are finished. Cookies are storing quite a bit of your information on these computers! If you forgot to log off Facebook, you won’t have to worry someone can gain access to your identity as long as you have deleted the cookies on the browser.
Keep Your Phone Password-Protected
When you travel abroad, your phone might be your go-to source to check your banking, social networks, and emails. Cell phones tend to have so much of our personal information on them that they could easily get a thief our identity if it was stolen. In order to protect your identity and your phone while you travel, be sure to delete apps that might have a great deal of personal information on them such as banking apps or even social network apps. It’s also best to keep a password on your phone so that if it is stolen, you won’t have to worry about someone gaining access to your emails, social networks, and even banking information.
Carry an RFID Blocking Wallet
Radiofrequency identification technology, known as RFID, is used on a number of important documents and cards you might have. A relatively new travel scam involves thieves with RFID readers getting close to your wallet to steal all of your information stored in RFID chips. These scammers are stealing identities through wallets and clothing in some cases. To avoid this travel scam and to protect your identity, you can invest in an RFID Blocking wallet, which makes it difficult for these scammers to grab your information.
Unpack Your Wallet Before Your Trip
Many people carry around important documents and cards in their wallets. When you travel abroad, you might just pack your wallet without removing any cards. You don’t want to be traveling with your Social Security card or your checkbook, after all. It’s also a good idea to do some credit card weeding: If you don’t need it, don’t bring it. It might be low-tech advice, but the more cards and documents you bring, the more likely your identity could be stolen with the swipe of your wallet!
Call Your Bank and Credit Card Companies Before You Leave
One of the easiest and most productive things that you can do to protect your identity while traveling is to take the time to alert the bank and credit card companies of your plan. Be sure to let them know your travel dates and destinations. This will give them the heads-up that you may be vulnerable to theft during this time. It will also ensure that they know to expect charges coming from unusual places as well as charges that may be more than what you typically spend. Keeping these institutions informed of your plans can prevent headaches down the road. Besides, many of these institutions allow you to do this online.
Stick to Good Habits When Using Debit and Credit Cards
There are a number of good steps that you can follow when using your debit and credit cards away from home. For example, using an ATM directly at a local bank is safer than getting cash from a restaurant or bar location. These locations are more susceptible to being tampered with, allowing thieves to steal the data from your cards. You should also avoid making financial transactions on public computers, such as in internet cafes or in hotel business centers. Be mindful about keeping all of your payment cards in your sight at all times, particularly when using them at restaurants. Lastly, never give your credit card information out over the phone! You never know when somebody may have nefarious intentions.
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Change Passwords and PINs Just for Your Trip
Before departing for your trip, it’s a good idea to change your passwords and PINs just for the purposes of travel. This will make it more difficult for thieves to get ahold of your financial data. You can always change your passwords and PINs back when you arrive back home. For an extra layer of safety, consider changing all of your passwords and PINs when the trip is over regardless of if you changed them before. This will protect your identity moving forward in the event that this information was stolen while you were away from home.
Pull Your Credit Report as Soon as You Get Back
A discrepancy in your credit report is often the first sign that your identity has been stolen. If you’re not already in the habit of regularly reviewing your credit report, now is the time to do so. A good practice is to review your credit report before you leave for the trip as a baseline check. You then need to check out this report again when you are back home to look for inaccuracies. Do not forget to check your bank accounts when you get back home as well…it’s much easier to fix an error if you catch it early!
Get Identity Theft Insurance
Get some much-needed peace of mind right after booking those cheap last minute flights and consider taking out an identity theft insurance policy. This type of insurance is usually available as an add-on to your standard homeowner’s policy. This specialized policy gives extra protection if your identity is stolen. The policy will help with the costs of clearing your name if you are a victim of identity theft. In addition, the policy will provide professional guidance to walk you through the process of restoring your identity.