Protect your identity and valuables during summer travels

You don’t have to step outside of your home to have your personal information stolen from you. But, if you do travel this summer for business or pleasure, make it difficult for identity thieves to take your identity.

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends the following tips before and during your travels:

  • Be especially careful with whom you share any personally identifiable information (e.g., Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, financial account numbers, medical records). Don’t divulge such information especially over the telephone or online, unless you are sure you’re dealing directly with the correct company or a fully authorized representative.
  • Carry only what you need
    • Leave checkbooks and checks at home in a locked safe. Use cash, traveler’s checks or credit cards to make purchases instead.
    • If you’re on vacation, carry your important documents in a fanny pack or wear a travel pouch inside your shirt. If you’re travelling for business, be aware that pickpockets also look for laptops, smartphones and tablets that are temporarily out of your control in airports, lobbies or dining areas.
    • Leave your cards with Social Security numbers on them at home. If necessary, make a photocopy, remove the last four digits of the SSN from the photocopy and carry that with you.
    • Carry photocopies of all travel documents including plane tickets, hotel reservations and passports. Keep copies in a separate location from the originals.
  • Use ATM/debit cards and credit cards
    • Only use your debit card at securely located Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s). Identity thieves have placed fake ATM machines in high-traffic tourist areas. Because a signature or PIN may not be required at the time of purchase, it is more difficult to resolve fraudulent purchases made with debit cards.
    • Use your credit cards when traveling. Federal law limits the amount of money you are responsible for if your card is lost or stolen, and most companies now extend a zero liability policy to customers.
  • Monitor your activities in public places
    • Be careful when discussing private information on your cell phone in a public venue. A thief may be listening for any of your personally identifiable information.
    • Be aware of pickpockets especially in high-traffic areas that attract travelers. Some studies indicate that if your wallet is stolen in a tourist spot, your identity will be stolen as a result.
    • Store valuables including laptops, PDAs, jewelry, passports, and other documents that contain personally identifying information in hotel safes.
    • Store your purse or bag beside you or hung around your body while you are in a public restroom to prevent theft. Do not hang them from a hook on the door of a public restroom stall; someone can reach over the top of the door and take them before you have time to react.
  • Secure your deliveries
    • Put your mail on “postal” instead of “vacation” hold so you won’t draw attention to the fact that you are away from home.
    • Suspend your newspaper and other automatic deliveries until your return.
  • Protect your home
    • If someone (e.g., neighbors, relatives, house-sitters) has a key to your house to check in while you are away, lock up your documents with bank account or Social Security numbers.
    • Activate your alarm system to deter burglaries.
    • Leave a light on a timer to look like someone is home during late night or early morning hours.