HOW TO AVOID IDENTITY THEFT WHILE ON VACATION

The weather is warming up, school is almost out and it’s a perfect time to go on vacation. Over 25% of identity theft occurs while people are on vacation or traveling. The good news is there are simple steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you.

My first suggestion is difficult for some people, especially if you are required to work while on vacation. Unless you are traveling for business, I strongly recommend you leave your laptop at home. While you may think you are using a secured wireless network at a hotel, identity theft experts will create a wireless network name that seems secure because they name it after the hotel where you’re staying. Once you have logged in, they can see everything you’re doing, including accessing your accounts, credit cards, logins and passwords. If you must bring your laptop, confirm with the hotel the exact name of their secured network, which should include a password. Never, ever use a wireless network that does not have a password! This also applies when using your smartphone.

Secondly, we all want to notify every one of the beautiful place where we’re staying and all the scenic locations we’re visiting through social networking. However, you’re basically telling everyone you’re not home so feel free to stop by and take what you want. Wait until you get home then post all the pictures, videos, etc. of your vacation. Also, don’t advertise you’re going on vacation in 30 days, next week, etc. Before you leave, make sure your mail is stopped and kept at the post office and that your newspaper is stopped. A pile of unread newspapers in the driveway tells everyone you’re not home.

Next, limit the number of credit cards you take on vacation and if possible keep it to 1 or 2 credit cards. If given the option when paying, always use credit vs. debit since it is easier to recoup fraudulent charges from your credit card. I also recommend you contact the customer service department for each of your credit cards and verify whether they offer any type of notification if a charge is made outside the USA. Make sure they have your cell phone number so they can contact you immediately if anything is suspicious. You can also contact your bank and let them know your travel dates and destinations. Most banks and credit card companies are happy to monitor your accounts as they don’t want to be liable for fraudulent charges.

If you need to get additional cash while on vacation, avoid public ATM’s and try to use banks which closely monitor their ATM’s for skimming mechanisms which gather passwords and account information. When you’re out for the day, only take what you need and leave your passport, traveler’s checks, etc. in your hotel safe.

I also suggest you make a copy of everything you are going to carry in your wallet or purse, including the front and back of every credit card, driver’s license, passport, etc. If your wallet or purse is stolen, you will have a list of every company you need to contact and it will be easier to replace your documents or cards if they are stolen.

Lastly, this suggestion applies in everyday use and not just while on vacation. When signing a credit card receipt, always add a date next to your signature regardless of whether it is an electronic signature or a paper copy. This doesn’t guarantee your card won’t be used fraudulently but it will minimize the risk since you are dating your signature, which may prevent them from using your account and signature for a future transaction.

If you take these precautions, you can likely to spend less time worrying about identity theft while on vacation or away from home and just have a great time!

Jim Kaiser

Branch Manager, NMLS #1721861

Cherry Creek Mortgage, LLC, NMLS 3001