If you are planning a trip out of town between now and the New Year to reconnect with family or recharge with some rest and relaxation, you are not alone. It is one of the busiest travel times of the year—and, unfortunately, when a lot of identity theft and financial fraud takes place.
Here are some strategies to help keep your personal and financial information secure while you travel this holiday season.
Pack a light wallet. Take only the credit and debit cards you need. Just as packing light avoids extra baggage fees, cleaning out your wallet or purse prior to leaving for vacation can prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. Leave unnecessary credit and debit cards at home, along with any document that lists your Social Security number.
Notify your bank or credit card company. When you make a purchase that seems to be outside your normal buying patterns, a red flag is typically raised at your financial institution. Unfortunately, this safety mechanism could mean that you lose access to a credit or debit card while you’re away from home. To help prevent this inconvenience, reach out to your financial institutions proactively and inform them of your travel plans, including where you are headed and how long your trip will last. They can help monitor your account for truly out-of-the-ordinary purchases.
Make plans for your mail and newspapers. An overflowing mailbox and a pile of newspapers are sure signs that you’re not home. Remember that some credit card statements, bills and other documents that arrive through the mail contain sensitive information that could be compromised if it got into the wrong hands. Contact the U.S. Postal Service and your newspaper publisher to stop delivery while you’re away, or have a friend or neighbor collect those items daily.
Use caution. When it comes to traveling, you can help decrease your vulnerability to fraudulent activity by staying aware of your surroundings. For example, never look up financial accounts or sensitive information when searching on a public computer or Wi-Fi network, and always be sure to log out completely and close the browser. In addition, consider keeping a detailed log of all expenses so you can compare it to your official account statements when you get home. And when it comes to social media, post photos wisely by turning off location tagging and ensuring that the network you’re using is private—or consider not posting until you’ve returned from the trip. You don’t want to alert thieves that you’re traveling and your home may be unattended.
Have backup. No matter how careful you are when traveling, sometimes personal items go missing. If you find that your credit card or passport is lost or stolen, immediately contact the appropriate financial or government institution. Consider making photocopies of the important documents you need for traveling, such as your passport, driver’s license and even credit card customer service phone numbers, and store the copies in a secure spot like the hotel safe or an in-room lockbox. Having access to these types of documents can help expedite obtaining replacements if the originals go missing.
Taking just a few precautions can help prevent fraud and give you valuable peace of mind during your holiday trip. Happy travels!
Lisa Taranto Schiffer
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