Summary: Travelers are particularly vulnerable for ID theft because they are distracted and in unfamiliar territory. Here’s how to protect your ID while on vacation.
Although awareness about identity theft is on the rise due to the continual advancement in technology and increased use of that technology to store and pass on personal information, it still occurs on a large scale. Identity theft when vacationing is especially common because thieves take advantage of unwary travelers who are distracted and in unfamiliar territory.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the act of retrieving your personal information by anyone who has the intent of fraudulently using it. Personal information is obtained by criminals in many ways and they are continually devising new methods that are less detectable or more deceiving.
Some of the most common ways for thieves to steal your identity are retrieving trashed items, stealing your mail, hacking into your computer files, using phishing emails, pop-ups and attachments, using credit card and ATM card skimmers, and placing hidden cameras on or near ATMs.
Most people have that “it won’t happen to me” attitude. However, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research survey, roughly 12.6 million American victims were hit by identity theft in 2012 alone. Once your identity has been stolen and used either by the thief or those to whom they sell it, considerable damage can be caused to your credit rating and it can take a great deal of effort to get things set straight.
Ways to Protect Your Identity
Due to the extreme damage and hassle that can result from identity theft, it is beneficial to take precautionary steps to protect from ID theft rather than to have to deal with the aftermath, especially when traveling on vacations when thieves are more actively seeking victims. Here are some ways to keep from being an ID theft victim and preventing your happy vacation from becoming a horrible nightmare.
- Secure Your Mail. When creating your to-do list for vacation travel, be sure to add a bullet point for the Post Office to hold your mail. This is easily done by filling out a short slip at the Post Office that instructs them to hold your mail until your return, or you can specify a date of delivery reactivation. You should not depend on a door mail slot or neighbors to gather your mail as criminals who know you are gone will wait for opportunities to grab important documents containing your information.
- Avoid Using Credit Cards. Credit cards are quite convenient and are used extensively on vacations. However, thieves know this and go to great lengths to steal your credit card information. Credit crooks can use skimmers in place of real credit card machines that capture credit card numbers and PINs and they can even hack into hotel, restaurant, or other business databases and steal personal information in bulk. The best way to avoid having your credit card information stolen while on vacation is to avoid using them. Instead, use cash or, better still, traveler’s checks.
- Be Cautious Online. Although online identity theft dangers exist anywhere, they are particularly prevalent while on vacation. The reason is that people mostly use laptops, mobile devices, and even Internet Cafés and hotel computer rooms to conduct online business. Such devices and locations are easily manipulated by hackers and ID thieves to obtain personal information. Therefore, avoid sending sensitive information over such devices while on vacation and, if you require doing so such as to pay bills, be sure to use sites that have current SSL certificates and secured connections.
- Scrutinize ATMs. Acquiring cash during vacation is a common practice and ATMs are the go-to sources because of their convenience. However, criminals can install card skimmers and place cameras in or near such machines that capture numbers and PINs. To avoid being victimized, only use ATMs in well populated areas and look machines over before using and avoid any ATMs that appear to have been tampered with (i.e. scratches, bulky out-of-place adaptations, and other signs on or around readers, viewers, entry points, etc).
- Hire a Professional Watchdog. You might also hire a company to monitor your credit activity while you are on vacation. Such companies closely monitor all activities and make you aware of any suspicious entries which can be challenged and stopped immediately, thus preventing long-term harm.
Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.