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When your family leaves for your annual summer vacation trip to the beach or to Mount Rushmore or to grandma and grandpa’s house, you make sure you have clean clothes and sunscreen and something for the kids to do on the way there. You might be packed and ready to go but have you remembered to turn out the lights, turn off the stove, and protect your identity?

According to a report by NBC on a study of identity theft, more than one million Americans become a victim of identity theft every single month. So while you enjoy your vacation, you stand an alarmingly real chance of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Identity thieves don’t take a vacation when you do. So here are five tips to help you protect your identity while on vacation:

  1. Thieves don’t have to break into your house to steal from you. Identity thieves only need some of your mail to use your account information and credit card numbers, or even to open a credit card in your name.  Have the Postal Service hold your mail while you are gone.
  2. If you leave some of your identification or credit cards at home when you go away, hide them or lock them up. Someone might run off with your television and that’s a hassle. But if someone runs off with your identification and credit, the hassle can potentially be longer-lasting, more costly, and not covered by insurance.
  3. Let your credit card provider know that you are traveling – where you are going and how long you’ll be. They’ll make a note of this on your file and it will ensure that your credit card charges are not denied while you are traveling, yet they can still monitor for unusual usage.
  4. While traveling, use just one credit card so that you can track your payments against your trip, and compare your receipts to your credit card bill. This helps you to avoid those situations where a thief might steal your credit card but use it sparingly enough that you don’t realize for a while.
  5. When you are at your destination, keep your identification and credit cards nearby at all times. Don’t leave it in the hotel room or in your glove compartment or in your sandals while you go swimming.

Keeping a close eye on your financial statements is also very important, as it can alert you to whether someone is using your credit or debit cards without your permission.

“Pay close attention to all of your accounts — you should do this as a matter of course, anyway. Your credit is a portfolio. It’s an asset just like your investments and must be continuously built, nurtured, monitored and protected,” says Adam Levin, an identity theft expert and chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911.  “You can also enroll for free in a variety of programs offered by banks, credit card issuers and credit unions that notify you whenever a transaction (or one that exceeds a designated amount) occurs in any of your accounts.”

Vacations should be times that you remember positively. Take precautions to avoid identity theft so that your family vacations don’t turn into frustrating and costly experiences that you wish you didn’t remember.

Image: iStockphoto

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