See if you’ve been employing the safeguards below to protect your identity while traveling.
#1 Put snail mail on hold.
Crooks love to scavenge through overflowing mail boxes to seek out personal information to steal an identity. Prevent this by arranging the postal service to put a stop on your mail.
#2 Clean up, thin out.
It’s been said that the laws of physics are defied when a woman empties her purse. Before traveling, dump out anything and everything: drug prescriptions, old memos, business cards, even expired documents. A thief could use this information to steal your identity.
#3 Be cautious with public computers.
A public computer is a very fertile area for identity theft, and this includes the computer in your hotel’s lobby. Never save passwords or use the auto-save function for forms. When you’re done, delete the search history. Never visit your financial institutions’ sites either.
#4 Wireless means watch out.
Free public Wi-Fi means anyone can snatch your personal information out of the air because this kind of Wi-Fi does not include encryption (which scrambles data). Use Hotspot Shield on your PC, Mac, tablet and mobile to encrypt your wireless communications.
The ability to snag your private information requires only a basic knowledge of computers plus a simple plugin, and voila—this person can spy on your browser activities. Try to use only WEP, WPA and WPA2 networks. Otherwise, visit only secure websites (they have the “https” in their address).
#5 Keep your phone number private.
Other than giving it to reps for your airline and hotel reservations, keep it to yourself. If it gets out, a fraudster could use it to pull phone scams on you.
#6 Protect your smartphone.
If your mobile device is loaded with personal information, it should have a home-screen-locking password. This can even be a fingerprint scan, depending on the model. Androids need antivirus the same as PCs do.
#7 Beware of ATMs.
ATMs can be fake or skimmers can be installed. A phony ATM kiosk can be set up on a street corner, beckoning for you. You swipe your card, and your card information is stored for later pickup by the thief who put the kiosk there.
If you must use an ATM, use a bank’s during regular business hours. Protect yourself from skimmers by blocking the keypad with your other hand as you enter your PIN. But still check your statements because keypad overlays can be installed too. Shred receipts immediately.
#8 Pay with cash.
Though stolen cash can’t be replaced, it also won’t lead to identity theft. Limit credit card use to secure payment systems found at major retail outlets and airports. Be suspicious of clerks who want to leave your visual range to swipe your credit card. And just plain don’t use a debit card when traveling.
#9 Don’t use your passport for ID.
Instead use your driver’s license or international ID. If you rely only on a passport and it gets stolen, you’ll end up in a bind you’ll never forget. Have backups of both scanned and available online.
#10 Hotel scams
Never give out private information over your hotel room’s phone, even if the caller says they’re from the front desk and need to straighten something out. Instead, deal with them at the front desk so you know it’s not a scam.
#11 Lock up valuables.
This doesn’t just mean jewelry, but use your hotel room’s safe to lock up passports, airline information, credit cards, cash and electronic gadgets unless you’re using them. Better yet, take them with you, or better still only travel with valuables you absolutely need.
#12 Review credit card statements.
Check your statements every month for unauthorized charges so that they don’t pile up.
#13 Encrypt laptop/mobile data.
When traveling with digital devices make sure to use encryption software that makes your data useless to a thief.
#14 Install tracking software.
Mobile devices should have a lock/locate/wipe software that does just that in the even your device goes mobile without you.
#15 Get identity theft protection
Both identity theft protection and a credit freeze should be used by everyone traveling or not.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.