5 Tips for Protecting Your Identity During Summer Vacation
Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means; vacation! Whether you're finally going on that cross-country road trip you've been planning, you're planning to hit the festival circuit, or you're just going to stretch out and relax on a beach thousands of miles away from your day-to-day, it's important to make sure your vacation is a time for you to recharge your batteries and enjoy yourself.
With that said, you also need to keep a close eye on your identity when you're away from home. Because while being in a new place might be exciting, there are also potential dangers you should be aware of. If you want to avoid those risks, and enjoy your summer without coming down with a bad case of identity theft, then you should keep the following tips in mind.
Tip #1: Clean Out Your Wallet Before You Go
Most of us don't really think about all the stuff we leave in our wallets, but you probably don't need to bring everything with you. Especially because, if you lose your wallet, there might be a lot of stuff you need to replace.
For example, you'll probably want to bring your driver's license, as well as one or two major credit cards. You probably don't need to bring your local store cards, though, and you aren't likely to need your library card, school ID, work ID, or similar cards when you travel. This allows you to keep your few necessities in a single, easy-to-conceal carrier (like a sleeve wallet), and it ensures that if you do lose it, or get it stolen, that you won't have to replace absolutely everything before you can get your life back to normal.
Tip #2: Be Careful With Public Wi-Fi
We all want to save a little data if we can, especially when we're traveling, but connecting your phone, tablet, or laptop to a public wi-fi network comes with a risk. On the one hand, it's a good way to check your email and let your friends know you made it to your destination in one piece, but on the other hand public networks tend to have low security, which puts you and your devices at risk.
It's generally a good idea to think about what information you're putting out there when you log on, and what might happen if it falls into the wrong hands. Even if you're just checking your balance, it's probably best to do it with your regular data.
Tip #3: Leave Your Checkbook At Home
Most of us only use checks when it comes time to pay our bills, and the rest of the time we keep our checkbooks locked up at home in a desk drawer where it's nice and safe. That is exactly where your checkbook should stay when you're off on your summer vacation having the time of your life!
Checking account fraud is one of the more difficult kinds of fraud to recover from, and there is such a huge amount of information in your checkbook that it would be a gold mine for any identity thief who got hold of it. That's why if you're going on vacation you should make sure that you bring some cash, some credit cards, and traveler's checks to make sure that you have a variety of payment methods that can be covered and replaced should something happen while you're out and about.
Tip #4: Make It Look Like You're Still Home
While the temptation to share your vacation plans with anyone who asks can be overwhelming, it's important to keep the details of your travel plans limited to those you trust. Otherwise you might be tempting identity thieves to make a play for some of your information while you're away.
The first thing you should do is make sure your mail isn't stacking up in your mailbox, or just sitting on your front stoop. The information in those bills and parcels shouldn't fall into the wrong hands. You should stop by the post office and ask them to hold your mail while you're gone, or if there's someone you trust to collect your mail, then that could be another option. You should also arrange to have your lawn cared for, and put your lights on a timer so that it looks like you're still in residence. Lastly, make sure you steer clear of posting a bunch of stuff on social media either about your trip, or while you're on it. The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be undone by you getting tagged in a picture in Cancun, making it abundantly clear you're far away.
Tip #5: Keep An Eye on Your Stuff
This one sounds like a no-brainer, and it's probably a piece of information we've all heard a time or two before when we were going on a trip, but leaving your stuff unattended is probably the worst thing you can do when it comes to letting your information fall into the hands of identity thieves. Even if you're pretty sure everything is fine, and you're in a safe area, make sure you keep your important documents, your wallet, etc. in a place that doesn't make them a target.
As an example, don't put your wallet in an open back pocket; put it in a pocket with a zipper so no one can randomly walk by and snag it. If you have your phone out, make sure you keep your hand and eyes on it, instead of laying it aside while you do something else. Don't leave your purse at the table in a restaurant while you go to the bathroom.
All it takes is a moment of inattention for an identity thief to make their move. Don't give them the opportunity.