Summer Vacation Safety Tips
Summertime is upon us — at least for another two months or so — and that means it’s time to think about vacation. Some of you may be staying close to home. (With the sluggish state of the economy, who could blame you?) But some may still wish to see new places and things. If you’re traveling, then you must know that you’re at a higher risk of falling victim to identity theft.
The act of constantly being on the move in a strange or not-so-familiar location tends to make even the best of us drop our defenses, and all it takes is one key error to pay the price. That’s why we’ve put together this latest post, with the help of our friends at Allstate, to guide you in keeping your information secure.
First, Put In The Prep Time.
Before you ever leave, while you’re still in the planning stages, make sure you’re preparing for the time away. Allstate recommends letting your banks and credit-card issuers know that you’re going to be away. Giving financial institutions advance notice, “as well as specific dates, locations and a phone number where you can be reached” are essential, the company notes. “That way, they can contact you about any possible suspicious activity if necessary.”
This is also a good time to issue a hold on your snail mail. By letting the U.S. Post Office keep it for you rather than letting it stack up in your mailbox, you won’t be waiving the red flag to potential thieves that you’re an easy target.
Additionally, its a good idea to make photocopies of all important documents — passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards — and emergency contact information for the various organizations to expedite the replacement process if anything is lost or stolen, Allstate notes. “Keep one set of documents in a separate piece of luggage, and keep one set at home with a friend or family member,” the company states.
If you’re active on social media, you’ll want to be a bit more tight-lipped about your family’s vacation, as that can be traced via search functions and make you the potential target of a predator. While they’re in your home, they can not only clean out your possessions, but they can also access private information to steal your identity.
Allstate also recommends that you schedule bill payments ahead of time because if you plan on paying them while you’re traveling, you could put your passwords at risk via a compromised public Wi-Fi connection.
And when it comes to compromised computers, you may want to stay away from ATMs while you travel. You never know which ones have been targeted by “skimmers,” who can access your account and PIN number information for unauthorized withdrawal. It may be a tad “old school,” but travelers checks or cash are great for being on the road because they minimize credit card use.
Wallet-wise, Allstate notes, you should take only “those items that are absolutely essential for your trip,” so leave most of those credit cards at home.
Last but not least, don’t place your full name and address on luggage tags, simply opting for your last name and phone number instead.
Next, Don’t Let Your Guard Down.
After preparing for your trip, Allstate notes, “make sure to remain vigilant while you’re away.”
Most hotels come with a hotel safe. If yours has one, use it. Do not leave out anything of value — either monetarily or ID-wise. You can’t always trust the people who will be coming in and out of your room while you’re away. Ideally, you’ll just have all the pertinent information on you or in your car.
Also, mind your trash carefully. Avoid leaving out “boarding passes, flight itineraries or car-rental receipts,” Allstate notes, adding that you should “Shred the documents at your hotel or take them home with you.”
And one last word of advice on ATMs: find a machine that’s attached to a bank. “These ATMs offer more security than stand-alone machines, which are vulnerable to the aforementioned ‘skimming,’” Allstate notes.
Vacation should be a time of fun and relaxation, and it can be, provided that you don’t take the pre-planning parts for granted and you’re always mindful that you’re more vulnerable when traveling. By following the tips listed above, however, you’ll stand a much better chance of staying safe and secure.