Your bags are packed, the car is loaded, the house is locked and it’s finally time to hit the road on your long awaited summer vacation. While you may have secured your home before leaving, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reminds you it is just as important to secure your personal identity before you go. Here are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of identity theft while traveling:
1). Stop your mail or have a neighbor collect it. A full mailbox of bank statements and credit card bills are exactly what hackers and identity thieves need to steal your identity. You can pick up forms to hold or forward your mail at any post office. Be sure and stop the newspaper as well.
2). Do not broadcast when you are going to be out of town on social networking sites. Although we like to let our friends and family members know about the fun we are planning, this information is a perfect way for burglars to know you won’t be home. It would be very easy for an intruder to access your personal information while inside your home.
3). Leave your checkbook and debit cards at home. Credit cards are generally the safest way to pay for your travel expenses because consumers are typically protected by the issuing card company. If however you have to use an ATM for cash withdrawals, it is best to use machines located inside bank lobbies.
4). Clean out your wallet. Leave cards that you will not use at home and carry only essential identifiers in your wallet like your driver’s license and a copy of your passport if necessary. It is wise to separate your cash, an extra credit card and your original passport by leaving them in a hotel safe. NEVER carry your social security card in your wallet or purse as this is an identity thief’s jackpot.
5). Alert your credit card companies and consider a temporary credit freeze. Before you leave, tell them when, where and how long you will be traveling. This helps fraud departments stop bogus charges if your credit card is used someplace you are not. A temporary credit freeze will deny any requests to open a credit card account, but it will not prevent you from using your credit card while you travel.
6). Be careful of hotel computers and public Wi-Fi networks. Don’t access financial data on hotel or other public computers as you never know who may be using identity stealing software specifically designed to intrude on your unsecured wireless network.
Whether traveling at home or abroad you could easily be targeted by identity thieves. You can stay one step ahead of their plan by handling your credit card, cash and personal information with extreme care.
If you have questions about this topic or would like to report a fraud phone call, email or letter, please contact the Fraud Hotline at 239-477-1242.