People take vacations to explore new places, get away from the daily grind, or just plain relax. But even when relaxation is your goal, you need to be vigilant against identity theft. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 17 million people fell victim to identity theft in 2014 alone, and thieves won’t take a break just because you’re on holiday.
Identity theft can cause financial loss or severe damage to your credit. You need to take extra steps to protect yourself while you’re traveling.
Here are six tips for protecting your identity while you’re on vacation.
1. Safeguard Your Home
Thieves may try to go through your mail or break in to your home if they think it’s unoccupied. You should eliminate signs that you aren’t home. If possible, you can leave a car parked in your driveway, set up timers that turn on a few lights in the evening, and stop your newspaper delivery.
You may also want to stop your mail with the post office, or have a trusted neighbor pick it up for you and keep an eye on things while you’re away.
2. Leave Sensitive Documents and Credit Cards at Home
Leave important documents like Social Security Cards, and any credit or debit cards you don’t plan to use, in a secure location at home. Your personal documents and unused credit cards are more likely to be lost or stolen if you bring them along. You should only take what you absolutely need (it is a good idea to bring a backup credit card or cash in case of emergency).
3. Secure Your Wallet
Some vacation destinations are hotspots for pickpockets and purse-snatchers that prey on tourists. Even if your travel spot is relatively crime free, you could lose your wallet or purse on a sightseeing expedition. You should keep your cash and credit cards in a zipped pocket that you can keep an eye on. Make sure to secure anything you leave behind in your rental or hotel room. And finally, keep some backup cash or a spare credit card stashed separately from your wallet.
4. Be Wary of ATMs
ATM skimming is a common scam that uses technology to gain access to your bank account. Skimmers are devices that can be inserted or installed on an ATM that capture your card information and PIN when you try to take out cash. Before you use an ATM, look for signs that it has been altered. Try to use ATMs that are relatively secure – such as an ATM located inside a bank.
5. Avoid Unsecure Wi-Fi Connections
Whenever you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, you could be putting your data and information at risk. Hackers can use unsecure networks to steal any information you share while you’re connected. You should only connect to password-protected networks from legitimate sources, and stick to your secure data network when you can.
6. Monitor Your Credit Reports and Bank Statements
When you return from your trip, make sure to monitor your credit card and bank statements closely. Look for any unauthorized charges on your bank accounts and credit cards during and after your dates of travel. You should also check your credit report for any accounts or debts you don’t recognize, as they may indicate you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
If manually checking your credit reports is too time consuming, consider credit and identity theft monitoring services, which will watch your credit report for you and notify you if there are any changes.