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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

Traveling South For The Winter? Snowbirds Are Prime Targets For Identity Theft

Protect your identity if you're heading south for the winter.

Protect your identity if you’re heading south for the winter.

Winter is here and it’s time for the snowbirds to fly south for the winter. Whether you’re headed to Florida or Arizona, it’s important to keep in mind that seasonal residents are often the targets of identity theft. Keep yourself from becoming a victim by taking these few sensible precautions:

  • Change of address: There are certain institutions you should contact to communicate your seasonal change of address so important pieces of mail don’t go astray. Call both your bank and post office with your new address, and stop all deliveries to your old one. When you come back for the summer you can call again and reverse the process. This is important because thieves might notice mail piling up at your summer home and realize the house is empty and vulnerable. They could also get ahold of financial applications and file for new lines of credit in your name, or find official documents containing personal information like Social Security numbers.
  • Credit cards: Seasonal residents tend to be less likely to notice if someone has stolen their credit card information, especially once they’ve left an area for the season. If you pay with a credit card, just check your statements frequently and be mindful not to leave any payment information behind when you return to your summer home.
  • Credit report: If you travel seasonally, you should check your credit report several times a year. You can receive a free report from each of the three U.S. credit bureaus once a year, and if you want your report sent urgently you can order it from a monitoring service like Identity Guard.
  • Disposal: Shred any documents that you don’t need to lock up, including invoices, credit card statements and pre-approved credit card offers.
  • Lights: When you travel, you leave your home vulnerable to robbery. Reduce risk by keeping your lights on a timer system, so that it looks to outsiders like someone is home.
  • Online banking: If you travel seasonally, online banking is an efficient way to keep an eye on all your accounts regardless of your geographical location. Just make sure to use a long, complicated password containing numbers and symbols as well as capitalized and lower-case letters. Make each password unique and don’t reuse them for different accounts. Try using acronyms and symbol substitutions to create memorable but hard-to-guess passwords. For example, “I Love My Bike” can become “1L0mB.” If you have trouble remembering your passwords, download a password keeper that can store them securely yet accessibly.
  • Pickpockets: Some criminals travel south in the winter to pickpocket seniors shopping at malls and markets. Keep your bag close to your body at all times and stay aware even while you’re browsing.
  • Storage: Keep your personal identifying information in a safe deposit box if you don’t need to take it with you. For example, Social Security cards, passports, birth certificates, credit card statements and earning reports should all be locked away. If you do need to take personal documents with you when you travel, it’s a good idea to also bring along a personal safe that can keep that paperwork secure.
  • Telemarketing: Criminals will often call areas that experience an influx of residents in winter months, pretending that individuals have a grandchild in need of financial aid.

If you are looking for other ways to protect your identity, you may also want to consider registering for credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activities that may indicate fraud.