5 Careless Ways You Can Put Your Identity at Risk While Abroad
Identity theft is a serious concern nowadays, and the risk increases when you leave home. Too many people skip important precautions and pay the price, so take note of these common careless mistakes to avoid next time you travel.
1. Forgetting the Home Front
You may have a fool-proof security plan in place for your trip, but if you fail to lock things down at home before you go, you’ve only done half the job.
An empty home is a sitting duck for snooping house or pet sitters, so transfer sensitive documents to a locked box or file drawer to keep them hidden, and protect private electronic files with a password. Don’t forget about snail mail; it’s all too easy for someone to notice a pile of unchecked mail, grab a credit card statement, and go on a spree while you’re halfway around the world. Contact the post office and ask them to hold your mail while you’re away.
Here’s another head-smacker — you may have a travel insurance policy you don’t know about. Many credit cards and insurance providers automatically include travel insurance, so find out what kind of coverage you already have. If your existing coverage is minimal, consider purchasing a policy to protect against the unexpected.
2. Packing a Thief’s Gold Mine
Don’t get so caught up in packing shorts and sandals that you forget about security. You don’t need your whole purse or wallet while you’re gone, and the more sensitive documents you bring, the greater the risk that one of them will fall into the wrong hands. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere nowadays, so leave the checkbook at home. Decide which cards you plan to use on the trip and lock up the rest. Carry a driver’s license or passport as needed for identification purposes, but don’t bring your Social Security card.
Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr
3. Not Being Sufficiently Paranoid
We all want to blend in with the locals when traveling away from home, but unfamiliar surroundings require more attention and precautions than we practice in everyday life. Protect your identity while traveling by locking cash, documents, and valuables in the hotel safe when you leave your room. Don’t use any old ATM that you see on the street; stick to those found at banks, and make sure no one can see your PIN code while conducting your transaction.
Image by Michael Stephens via Flickr
On the digital front, smartphones and tablets are among the most commonly lost and stolen items, yet they often contain more sensitive information than your purse or wallet does. Be careful not to be cavalier with your gadgets. Add a passcode to digital devices, and activate remote tracking and shutoff if the device supports it.
4. Being a Walking Target
So you locked your Passport in the room safe, but what about the cash and credit cards you’re carrying around? Pickpockets can spot an easy target a mile away, so use a travel wallet or Passport holder to keep valuable items close and out of sight. Going for a swim? That’s no excuse. Get a waterproof version!
Image by John Ragai via Flickr
5. Failing to Have a ‘What If’ Plan
You may be the most careful traveler in the world, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. If you didn’t call your credit card companies to let them know about your trip, thieves could use your card to go on a vacation of their own. (You may also suffer the embarrassing experience of having your card declined at a hotel, restaurant, or shop.) So remember to give providers a heads up a few weeks before you leave.
Bring copies of important documents so you’ll have a physical record in the event that something gets lost or stolen. Jot down contact numbers for credit card companies, emergency contacts, and anyone else you may need to reach out to in a pinch. Educate yourself about what steps to take if your Passport is stolen.
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It’s not hard to be a savvy traveler, it just takes a little forethought. Get ahead of the game by avoiding these common mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to a safe and blissful trip.
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