A summer vacation is a wonderful way to shed stress, explore new places and cultures, and reconnect with the people who mean the most to us.
Unfortunately, we all know that a vacation can be ruined by criminals. Taking a few precautions, beginning when you’re still at home, could make the difference between happy memories and a long-term nightmare. These five simple steps could prevent identity theft:
1. Clean out your wallet — You’ve been meaning to do this anyway. Shred all receipts or file them at home. Put your checkbook in a safe place in your home, and use your credit or debit card while traveling, or traveler’s checks. Leave gift cards at home unless you plan to use them on vacation. You should never routinely carry your Social Security or Medicare cards. If these are in your wallet, remove them permanently.
2. Notify your credit card provider — Once you’ve decided which credit or debit card to take on vacation, contact the company to let them know where you’ll be traveling and for how long. Likewise, contact the providers of cards that you’re leaving behind. The fraud units of all cards will know where you are to prevent unauthorized purchases.
3. Take a spare wallet —Tuck a little bit of cash inside along with a hotel keycard from a previous trip. Men should carry this in their rear pants pocket while women should carry this at the top of items in their purse. If you’re the victim of a pickpocket, this wallet will be stolen, not your real one. If a robber asks for your wallet, hand over the spare.
4. Don't post vacation photos on social media — Posting status updates that you're away from home and fun vacation photos may seem like a good idea, but really any of this personal information is useful both to burglars and identity thieves.
5. Phone calls from “front desk fraudsters” — If you receive a call from the “front desk” saying there’s a problem with your credit card and they need a number from a different card, politely tell them that you’ll call back in a moment and hang up. Call the desk yourself to check if the call is legitimate. You may find out that an identity thief was trying to steal your card number or, if there is a genuine problem with your card, call the company to fix the problem.