Picture this: you’re having the time of your life overseas, sightseeing and eating great food and enjoying all your vacation has to offer. And then you find out that your identity has been stolen in the midst of your travels. Quite the buzzkill, right? Even more importantly, it’s more than just a quick way to ruin your vacation – identity theft can have lasting side effects on your finances and your credit score if you don’t take immediate action.
According to the Harris Poll, more than 15 million Americans experienced identity theft in 2017, and if you’re traveling, you’re at a higher risk for theft. However, don’t let that deter you from taking an exciting and adventurous vacation. Here are a few tips on how to prevent identity theft by keeping your identity safe in your various travels.
- Unload nonessentials from your wallet. Having a fat wallet might just mean you’ve collected too many rewards cards, but to thieves, that fat wallet could mean a stack of cash waiting to be stolen. Other than your passport or other form of federal identification card, avoid carrying anything with personal information (i.e. your Social Security card). Also, if you have multiple credit / debit cards, limit yourself to two while traveling to minimize your chances of identity theft.
- Set up alerts for fraud or questionable charges. First and foremost, it’s important to let your financial institution know if you’re traveling overseas so they can be prepared for charges from outside your general radius. CardValet, an app that helps you manage your accounts and keep them secure, allows you to set up real-time alerts when your account has been compromised. And if your card is stolen, you can use the app to turn “off” your card and prevent further theft. You can download CardValet from Google Play or the App Store.
- Be fully aware of your surroundings. When you’re in a different part of the country or the world, you’re going to be in foreign territory (no pun intended). As you find yourself sightseeing or simply immersing yourself in a local culture, it’s vital to pay attention to your surroundings and the people in your midst. If you’re looking to use an ATM, try to find one in a bank or an otherwise secure location to ensure passers-by are unable to see your information.
Be prepared before you hit the road. Even if you take every precaution necessary, identity theft can still happen, and it’s best to plan ahead before you leave in case of an emergency before you get home. Make copies of passports and other federal ID cards, credit/debit cards, and other personal information, and store it in a safe or with a trusted friend. Having this secured paper trail will help your financial institution assist you once you’re home.