Are you a jetsetter? Road warrior? Someone just looking to make a getaway for the holidays? Whether you're traveling for business, pleasure or both, protect yourself from identity (and financial!) theft with the following tips.
Defend Your Documents
We often travel with our most important documents, including a passport/driver's license, credit/debit cards, insurance information and even occasionally a Social Security card or birth certificate. Preempt any pickpockets by wearing a neck or waist wallet underneath your shirt—and if you feel in danger, yell, "police!" Pickpockets become squeamish around attention-drawing targets.
Be Wary of Shared and Unsecured Internet Connections
The hotel in New York, the café in France, the bus tour touting free Wi-Fi—all are hotbeds for identity theft. That is because these connections are often open and unsecured, which means your information could be intercepted during transmission. Using web sites with "https://" at the beginning of the address (rather than "http://") can help add some security (the "s" stands for "secure" and indicates data transmitted is encrypted for greater protection). You can also download a plug-in through your browser to ensure the "s" is included in your web addresses, or sign up for a personal VPN (virtual private network), which encrypts your data automatically.
Protect Your Phone
You may be more worried about your phone being stolen than your wallet—and for good reason! You may have multiple email accounts linked to your mobile device, apps to your financial institutions and auto logins for a slew of social media sites. Take steps to protect your identity in the event your phone is lost or stolen. These include setting a password on your phone, disabling auto logins while you're traveling and setting up your smartphone's GPS location app that tracks a lost phone (like "Where's My Droid" or "Find My iPhone®"). Using secured connections applies to mobile devices, too.
Be Hyper-Aware at ATMs
If you need a little extra spending money during your travels, beware of cash machines that have been tampered with. Thieves can install card readers into ATMs to steal credit card numbers and PINs.
To help prevent this:
- use a financial institution ATM rather than generic ones (they'll be more likely to have safeguards against criminals)
- change your passwords and PIN before going on a trip and then change them back when you get home
- let your financial institution know when and where you're traveling
- if you'll be using a credit card encrypted with chip technology, set up a PIN with your financial institution before traveling
Keep an Eye Out for Suspicious Behavior During and After Your Trip.
Even if you monitor your information while on a trip, remember to keep close track of your financial accounts, email and social media once you return home. To avoid any lingering threats to your identity, review your bank activity and statements regularly and watch out for phishing emails that attempt to get you to click.