Be sure to pack identity theft protection when you travel, on vacation or a business trip. Here’s how to protect yourself before, during and after travel:
Avoiding identity theft before travel
It’s a good idea to let your credit card issuers know you are traveling, especially if you are going to a new destination or charging an extra-large amount that’s not in your regular travel pattern. That protects you from having your credit line frozen mid-trip, and protects them from being liable for stolen amounts. Empty your wallet of credit cards and other identification you won’t need on the road, such as a department store credit cards.
Also, leave at home anything that contains your Social Security card, and consider using a travel wallet or handbag with RFID protection. Cards with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in them are easier to use, including by thieves. High-tech scammers can decode the chips and use the information for fraudulent activities, including identity theft, according to Corporate Travel Safety. Travel gear companies such as Magellan’s and Ex Officio have RFID-protection clothing and accessories.
Make a list of important numbers, such as the toll-free numbers of your credit card issuers and your travel insurance information. Make at least two copies, and put them in different bags. I keep one on an unmarked jump drive in with my little bag of chargers for my electronics and camera gear. Make sure you code your passport number, say by using one number above or below the real numbers, such as 234 instead of 123.
Keep information about your trip to a minimum on social media, to prevent unscrupulous friends of friends from taking advantage of your absense. LifeLock also recommends you save posting photos of your trip until you are safely back home.
Avoiding identity theft during travel
Use ATM machines that are inside a bank or tourist office, rather than in public, such as at a sidewalk kiosk. You’ll be less likely to be watched by somebody writing down your card information, or recording it on a mobile device. Avoid using your credit card number on public computers. If you must use a shared computer, be sure to delete all information that can identify you before leaving the computer, such as your log-in and password.
Never give your credit card information over the phone, even if the caller claims to be hotel staff. It is safer to go to the front desk to confirm the request and the information.
Use the hotel safe for valuables including passport, extra cash and your airline ticket home. And use a combination you are unlikely to forget. If credit cards, drivers license or passport go missing, act fast. Report it immediately to your hotel, which can help you with local police, especially if you are in a foreign country and don’t speak that language fluently, and help you get to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate office. Cancel credit cards immediately. Some issuers will send you a replacement with a new account number by overnight express, including overseas.
Keep all credit card receipts, and check them against your statement for charges you don’t recognize. Actually, that’s a good habit year-round, for charges at home, too. To learn more about how to report identity theft, visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s Identity Theft Task Force.