As the days grow longer and people finally retire their coats for a season in the sun, many Americans start planning for how they’ll spend their summer. From beach vacations to sightseeing trips, two-thirds of U.S. adults reserve some time during the summer months to travel, according to AAA. Whether they’re taking off on a week-long excursion or hoping to squeeze a few days of down time into their busy schedule, all vacation-goers have at least one thing in common: They’re looking to step away from the stress of daily life.
Unfortunately, while they might be able to simply leave behind the stack of papers on their desk or the car that always seems to need fixing, Americans can never just walk away from the threat of identity theft. In fact, travelers may actually be more vulnerable on the road than they were at home.
“People are at a greater risk of identity theft when they are on vacation,” said Ward Clapham, vice president of recovery services at Absolute Software in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a former officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“Generally, vacationers blindly trust vendors and places when they travel, and tend to let their guard down when they want to experience their trip to the fullest,” Clapham said, according to NBC News. “Unfortunately, criminals around the world know this, particularly during the summer months, and take advantage.”
That being said, travelers who plan ahead may be able to improve their identity theft protection over those who simply leave it up to chance. Here are a few tips you can use to better protect your identity while you’re away this summer:
- Don’t over pack
While you probably repeat this to yourself as you look over the pile of clothes you have to fit into your suitcase, it is equally as important to keep in mind when packing your wallet. While your wallet might accumulate additional credit cards, copies of your Social Security Card, medical documents or any other miscellaneous items over time, it’s important to go through this list and leave behind anything you won’t need on your trip. Even items as seemingly useless as an old prescription or business card could give ID thieves enough information to deal significant damage to your credit, warns USA Today, so be sure to truly take out everything but the bare essentials.
- Secure your cellphone
As careful as we tend to be with our passports and wallets when traveling, we are typically far less vigilant when it comes to our cell phones. While you’ll undoubtedly use your phone to take pictures and search for the next restaurant you’ll visit, it’s important to remember that in addition to being the perfect travel companion, your phone also contains a trove of sensitive data. Treat it with as much care as you would your passport. Secure it with a password so that no one who steals or finds it can use it in any way. Independent Traveler also recommends logging out of each app before heading out and about. Otherwise, if someone were to get into your phone they would have access to all of your personal accounts and the information they contain.
- Keep an eye on your bank statements
ID thieves tend to target people while they are on vacation, assuming their victims will take longer to realize the fraud has occurred if they’re busy enjoying themselves. To counter, check your bank statement every few days, or whenever you find a secure internet connection. Review your previous transactions to make sure nothing looks amiss. It can be worth spending five minutes looking through your statement each day to avoid hours of headache later.
If you simply want to improve your identity theft protection while you’re away, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service like Identity Guard. We can keep an eye on your credit files when you can’t, alerting you if we detect certain activity that may indicate fraud.