When you take time off work for a stress-free vacation, the last thing you want waiting for you back home is a chaotic financial disaster due to a stolen identity. However, these situations are all too common when the victim is travelling.
Whether you realise it or not, your personal identity is your most precious possession. When someone gets a hold of it, your credit rating, bank account, health benefits, criminal record and social security benefits can all take a huge toll. Repairing the damage can be costly and take an overwhelming length of time.
Before heading to the airport, make sure you take some steps to prevent your identity from getting in the wrong hands, or anyone’s hands for that matter!
Contact Your Credit Card Company
Letting your credit card company know of your plans to travel can save you a lot of trouble. Many financial institutions contact you when there is suspicious activity on your bank account, such as a transaction in Mexico when you live in Oklahoma.
If you are travelling, the bank may contact you for any weird transactions. If you don’t answer, your account may get frozen, causing you a lot of hassle while away.
Have a Plan for Your Mail
You mail contains bank statements, account numbers, phone numbers and other important information many thieves search for. If a criminal can tell you are away from home, your mailbox can be a treasure box.
Either contact the post office and tell them to hold your mail until you return, or have a neighbour pick up your mail while you are away.
Strip Your Wallet Down to the Essentials
Make sure your wallet only contains what is absolutely necessary on your trip. Leave extra credit cards in a safe place back home.
Many holiday hotspots are notorious for thieves who will steal your wallet right out of your pocket. For all essential documents, such as a passport, make a copy so you aren’t without access.
Another helpful tip is to keep your driver’s license and debit card in your shoe or another unusual spot. That way, if you wallet is stolen, you still have access to the essentials.
Be Wary of Hotel Computers and Un-secured Wifi Connections
Accessing important accounts should be avoided while travelling, unless you are using your own laptop or tablet with a safe, secure connection. Hotel business centre computers may memorise keystrokes and passwords, and unsecured wifi connections could allow potential thieves easy access to your visited websites.
Use Cash Whenever Possible
Cash is really the safest payment method. While not possible for all transactions, try to limit your use of debit and credit cards while travelling. This is also useful to prevent overspending.
Freeze Credit for Lengthy Periods Away
While it generally costs $10 to freeze an account and $10 to unfreeze it, this process safely allows you to prevent any additional accounts to be created in your name. It also prevents lenders from accessing your credit report without your authorisation. This is particularly important if you are unable to check for suspicious activity on your own.
What to Do if Victimized
After contacting your banks, it’s important to contact a skilled attorney immediately if you have fallen victim to identity theft. Your identity is invaluable.