Whether you are traveling for business or fun, your risk of identity theft increases simply because you are traveling in a new region and where the restrictions on credit card and fraud protections may be different than what you have back home.
Of course, when you are traveling, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is your friend and some people have ulterior motives.
Steps to Protect your Identity on the Road
To protect your identity while you travel within your own country or abroad, take these precautions:
- Travel light. No, we’re not talking about your style of packing, we mean leaving behind unnecessary credit cards, bank cards, social security card – anything you have in your wallet that you won’t need on your trip.
- Make two copies of your driver’s license, passport (if going abroad), health insurance card (if staying in the country), and the credit card you plan to take with you. Leave one copy with a friend or family member you can call while on your trip and keep one copy with you (consider a digital copy sent to your e-mail account – it’s lighter and password-protected). If your stuff is stolen while traveling, you will have the information you need to lock down your credit and start the process of obtaining new documents.
- Leave your check book behind. You won’t need it while traveling, and most places have significant restrictions on check-writing these days anyway. Besides, checking account fraud is one of the most difficult types of identity theft from which to recover. Use cash and credit cards while traveling and pay the bill when you get home.
- When you use an ATM, block the view of your transaction so that a well-position someone with binoculars can’t watch you enter your PIN and then target you for pickpocketing or mugging.
- Use the hotel safe for valuable documents containing personal information. Many hotel employees have access to your room and there is tremendous risk of burglary while you are away from your room. If the safe in your room is not working, ask for a room with one that does.
Steps to Protect your Identity at Home
To protect your identity while you are traveling, there are a few things to remember to lock down at home as well, especially because you won’t be there to keep an eye on things:
- If you’ll have a house-sitter while you are gone, lock valuable documents (all that stuff you took out of your wallet, for instance) in a safe or safe deposit box. Even if you can trust the house-sitter, your home could be burglarized while you’re gone. Don’t give thieves the keys to your identity.
- Have your mail held at the post office so it doesn’t pile up and display to thieves you are not at home. Trusted neighbors are great for this, but have them keep your mail in their house so you don’t have too many people in and out of your house while you are gone.
- Place a hold on the newspaper or have a neighbor pick it up for you. Again, thieves won’t know you’re traveling unless you make it obvious.
Also, remember that some travel insurance plans provide identity theft services, which can help if your identity is stolen, and passport and credit card services for replacement documents and emergency cash when you need it.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.