Home > Identity Theft > 10 Tips to Protect Your Identity As You Travel

Comments 0 Comments

Identity theft doesn’t take a vacation—even when you do.

As winter sets in, the bogus offers go out: Phishing emails that can unleash malware on your computer, so-called free vacations and prizes that require a credit card or Social Security number to claim, and low-cost vacation rentals that can lead to a quick gotcha.

Let’s say you’re wise enough to avoid these and other travel scams—and make legitimate reservations. Before you pack the sunscreen or holiday gifts for distant loved ones, take these simple steps to reduce the risk of identity theft.

  • Alert credit card providers. Let them know when, where and how long you’ll be traveling. This helps fraud departments prevent bogus charges. It also reduces the chance that cards will be frozen due to unusual activity.
  • Weed your wallet. Pickpockets love popular tourist destinations. Remove unnecessary personal identifiers (read: pretty much everything but your driver’s license and medical insurance card) and all but two credit cards. Why two? One to carry with you to use, and another to be locked in a hotel room safe in case your wallet is pilfered. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet—ever. To reduce pickpocketing risks, men should keep their real wallet in a shirt breast pocket or buttoned pants pocket; women should carry handbags with wide straps and locked clasps, diagonally across the chest.
  • Register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Enroll in STEP, which provides comprehensive traveler information, including travel alerts and restrictions; information on visas or vaccinations; crime, stability and road conditions; laws of the country you’re visiting; and consular contact information.
  • Stop mail or have a neighbor collect it. A full mailbox, especially one that contains bank statements and credit card or health insurance bills, can be a treasure trove for identity thieves (and suggest easy pickings for a home burglar). Forms to hold or forward mail are available at any U.S. Post Office. Also, stop newspaper deliveries while you’re gone to reduce the risk of a home burglary.
  • Don’t announce your travel plans on social networking websites. When you tell people where you are, you are also telling them where you aren’t—at home. Criminals can use this information to gain access to your home, which contains your valuables, including your identification.
  • Leave your checkbook at home. You shouldn’t need it on vacation if you have credit cards.
  • Choose ATMs wisely. Avoid stand-alone ATMs that are not connected with a known institution. Privately owned ATMs may be operated by criminals. Even when they have legitimate operators, they are more susceptible to card-skimming because of the lack of security around them.
  • Be careful with public computers. Don’t access online bank accounts or other sensitive information on hotel or other public computers. They could have key-logging software that records account numbers and passwords. When using your laptop, the same should apply when using public Wi-Fi networks. Hacking tools let scammers create their own parallel wireless networks that mimic the name or look of a bona fide establishment’s hot spot.
  • Leave bills at home. Travelers may be tempted to catch up with bookkeeping and bill-paying in a hotel room. But those accounts can be gleaned by unscrupulous staff and others with access to your room.
  • Beware of front desk fraudsters. One popular hotel hoax involves a late-night phone call to your room. Callers may claim to be hotel employees who need to re-enter your check-in credit card number but they could be identity thieves using phones in the lobby to get account information while you’re half-awake. If you get such a call, don’t provide any info. Instead call the front desk yourself.

If you want to do even more to protect your identity this holiday season, the Credit Report Card is a free tool that can help you spot signs of identity theft. The Report Card gives you free credit scores every month, and any significant drop in your score could signal identity theft.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team