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Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft while Traveling - 9 Tips

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft while Traveling

When you are at home, you tend to feel safe and identity theft is likely the furthest thing from your mind. Now think about when you are on vacation - you are soaking in the scenery and new experiences and your guard may be completely down. Both of these situations place you in a vulnerable position; a position criminals manipulate to their advantage - and use to master the devious art of identity theft. With the economy at an all time low, thieves are turning towards more creative methods for obtaining cash and information. This means travelers are have a higher risk than ever before of becoming victims of identity theft.  When you travel, know that thieves are always thinking of new ways to steal your identity - even targeting those who travel in more craftier ways than before.

Like ordinary idetity theft, identity thieves are specifically target certain types of personal information of travelers, including; credit and debit account numbers, Social Security number, date of birth, and driver’s license number.   Fortunately, there are several things you can do during your travels to safeguard your personal information and ensure you aren’t amongst the next group of victims.  Here is a list of a few tips to consider.

Before You Leave on Your Trip

Call Before you Depart

Before you leave on your trip, call and inform your bank and credit card companies you are going to be traveling.  If possible, give them dates and destinations. Most institutions are happy to monitor your accounts, as they do not want to be liable for any stolen sums.

Use Pin Based ATM Cards Only

Use a pin-based ATM card only, rather than a check or debit card. Check and debit cards can be used without a pin to make purchases. This way if your card is compromised, it is worthless to the criminal and they won't have direct access to all of your funds in your checking account.

Use Credit, not Debit

If you aren’t using cash while traveling, attempt to use a credit card instead of your debit card. If someone gets your debit card number you’ll likely lose all the money you need to pay your bills and the process of reversing the fraudulent charges can take a lot longer. If someone steals your credit card you’ll have an easier time recouping your losses, especially if you have an identity theft protection plan from your card holder.

Stop Your Mail

You may think it’s a great idea to simply have a neighbor pick up your mail while you’re out of town but if a thief is casing your neighborhood he’ll eventually figure out you aren’t home and beat your neighbors to the mailbox anyway. Go to the post office and stop your mail while you’re away. Your mail, which could include Social Security statements, pay stubs, and tons of other personal information, will be safe until you return.

Leave it at Home

Will you really need you checkbook, extra credit cards, sanitize your wallet and remove anything you will not be using on your trip.

Limit Bag Tag Information

Do you really need to put your full name and address on the tags you attach to your luggage? Probably not. If someone gets a hold of your bag he’ll have your name and address AND he’ll know you’re not home. Put your name and phone number and leave it at that. An honest person will call you if he finds your bag. A thief won’t care either way but at least he won’t know where you live.

Bills, Bills, and More Bills

Pay your bills prior to departure for vacation. Do not take bills along with you; hotels are dangerous places to leave bills because the account information printed on them is readily available to anyone. This is a serious threat to your identity.  Another tip that everyone should be doing with bills is to make sure old ones are shredded, rather than being tossed into the garbage - Always make sure you minimize your exposure to account information that you throw in the trash.  Know that another breed of ID thieves sift through trash in search of these materials.

Do You Really Need to Be Connected while on Vacation?

Do you really need your laptop on a pleasure trip? If not, leave it at home. The world won’t end if you don’t check your email while lounging on the beach in Hawaii. If your laptop is the computer you use primarily it likely has a lot of personal information, including financial and passwords, and if it is lost or stolen you could easily become the victim of identity theft.

Forget Facebook

Never, under any circumstances, post a status on Facebook to let your friends know you’re on vacation. You wouldn’t put a sign on your front door announcing you’re away and, as such, you shouldn’t announce it to the Internet world. Someone who breaks into your house will have access to tons of identifying information. The same applies to MySpace, Twitter, and any other social networking service you use.

While Traveling 

Keep Track of Boarding Passes

Once you’re on a plane you might think your boarding pass is no longer important and, as such, inadvertently lose track of it. Put your used boarding pass right back in your purse, wallet, or carry-on. It has a lot of identifying information on it and if it falls into the wrong hands it will announce your absence from home.

Leave it in Your Hotel Room

When you are out an about, do you really need to carry certain documents with you or can they be left in your hotel room safe.  When out and about, only carry the money or travelers checks you need for the day.  Leave your passport, extra travelers checks, and additional credit cards in your room safe to lower your risk of ID theft - carry only what you think you’ll need.   If you do become a victim you’ll lose less and your attacker will have access to less information than if you were carrying all of your identifying information.  The same goes with your rental car.

Is Your laptop Up to Date?

If you take your computer with you, update your anti-spyware and anti-virus programs before you leave, as you will be connecting to possibly unsecured Internet connections, a haven for ID thieves.  If you are using your computer on vacation, do not access your personal accounts from your hotel room or Internet café; publicly available Internet connections are a common source of identity theft. This is because they are generally unprotected signals with a high volume of usage.

Avoid ATM Machines

If you really need money you are better off visiting a local bank than you are using an ATM machine. Thieves constantly monitor ATM machines in an attempt to skim PIN numbers or blatantly

 take your cash after you’ve made a withdraw. Check your surroundings, make sure the ATM doesn’t have any strange attachments above or below the card slot, make sure no one is nearby with a cell phone camera, and make sure you cover up the keypad as you type your code.

Use RFID Blocking Wallets because you lock your car, and your house, why not lock your personal data as well?

Many of the credit card companies are issuing credit cards which contain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that lets you simply wave your credit card, passport or license in front of a nearby scanner instead of having to slide the magnetic stripe through it.

It’s a fairly simple concept. The electronic scanner sends a signal which is received by an antenna embedded into the card, which is connected to the card's RF chip, thus activating it.

The biggest recent change in credit cards is the embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, enabling what the industry calls "contact-less payments."  Since 2005, many credit card companies such as Chase Bank began introducing their RF Credit Card and coined the term "Blink" technology. These "contact-less" cards could be simply waved in front of an RFID Enabled Point of Sale terminal.

The apparent benefits of RFID credit card transactions are convenience, speed and the elimination of employee contact with the card.  To minimize accidental reading of these cards, they are designed to be read at a distance of one to four inches from the reader.

Its because of this technology that can allow an RF enabled card to be "hi-jacked" by use of an unauthorized RFID scanner, and then the information used for fraudulent purposes.  It is important to note that there are two parts to this process:  Scanning the card to retrieve the information, and then being able to use the retrieved information to make a fraudulent financial transaction.

The implication in recent media articles is that it is easy to "hi-jack" the RFID information, and that it is easy to then use this information to make fraudulent purchases.

To protect your RFID enabled credit cards and passport cards, travelers should consider using any number of the various RFID blocking wallets on the market.  These RFID Blocking wallets are perfect for anyone who wants additional security for their new RF enabled credit cards, drivers license, or US Passport Card.

The new wallet-size U.S. Passport Card is a travel document that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.  These RFID wallets are made for both men and women, and are made specifically to prevent unauthorized RFID access to your personal information.  Here is a variety of RFID blocking wallets.

Never Let Your Card Out of Site

Another great way to avoid identity theft is to never let your credit card go out of your line of eye site. If the waiter, or gas station attendant, or concierge (or anyone else), has to leave your line of vision the odds of him running your card twice and only giving you one receipt are significantly increased. They might even simply make a photocopy or take a cell phone picture of your card for later use. It can and does happen.

Your vacation should be a dream come true – not a nightmare. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that your identity will not be stolen while traveling. Even the most diligent and conscious people become victimized by ID theft.  know that most thieves are lazy, and will take what is easy to access over what they must work harder for- use that to your advantage by staying ahead of the game.

To see a complete selection of unique travel safety products that can aid in preventing the theft of your personal information while traveling, visit the website for over 300 items.

Our site contains over 100 pages of travel safety tips and security tips that are useful for any traveler. You will find tips involving luggage theft, avoiding pickpockets, laptop theft, hotel burglary, and airplane, train, automobile, and boat travel crimes.