The recently released Spending & Saving Tracker report by American Express shows that almost 70% of consumers have plans to get away this summer, nearly 20% will travel overseas and more than 30% plan to spend more than $1,000 per person. With so many travelers taking to the skies and the roads this summer there will be more opportunities for identity thieves to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers.
Summer vacations are a time you and your family to enjoy each other's company, perhaps see new places and experience new adventures; and should not be a time when you are faced with having to track down and resolve unauthorized financial transactions or Social Security number misuse. By staying vigilant and following these easy to follow prevention tips, you can mitigate the possibility of an identity thief getting a hold of and taking advantage of your data.
- Don't share your plans on social media. While it may be exciting to share upcoming vacation plans with friends and family, social media is not always a guaranteed secure communication channel. Industrious identity thieves can gain access to this information and use it to target you and your home while you are away.
- Limit the number of credit cards you travel with. Carrying multiple cards increases your chance of losing one or giving identity thieves multiple credit cards to steal from should your wallet or purse become stolen during your travels. It is best to carry just one or two and keep a backup credit card in the hotel safe. Keep a copy of emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts should they become lost or stolen. Just like at home, never give information to incoming callers, this even applies to the front desk of the hotel. Go down to the lobby and provide it in person.
- Use wireless Internet connections with caution. The deluge of smartphones, apps, and tablets has made it easier for consumers to do more while "on the go". Most Wi-Fi networks are not secure and sensitive information - such as credit card numbers - can be intercepted during transmission if unencrypted. You should never access your banking information through public Wi-Fi. Instead, use your carrier's cellular service.
- Properly discard used travel documents. Travel documents such as boarding passes and customs forms can contain personal information, like names and addresses. These documents are often left behind on airplanes and in hotel rooms. Before discarding, be sure to tear up any travel documents that are no longer needed and dispose of them in a larger trash receptacle, not a hotel room trash can. Better yet, take them home and shred them if possible.
- Continue to protect your information when you return. Identity thieves are likely to misuse information well after they have gained access to it. It's advisable to be sure to monitor your financial statements and credit reports after you return from your travels to ensure no fraudulent activity has occurred. Consider enrolling in a comprehensive service, like Identity Guard, that can monitor all of this and more on your behalf, saving you time and worry.