For travelers, there are things to be aware of whether you're at the airport or using public Wi-Fi at your hotel. Identity thieves and hackers have all sorts of ways to steal sensitive personal information—information that can be used to steal your identity.
For instance, your boarding pass. Before you consider throwing it away in a public trash can or even posting a picture of it on social media, consider how it could be used to steal your identity.
According to cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, a lot of information is stored in those tiny black-and-white barcode lines. And that info can lead a criminal to even more. All told, a boarding pass can provide a person’s full name, phone number, address, records of past and future trips, and even a frequent flier account number.
All of this brings to mind how many ways one's identity can be vulnerable while traveling. Consider these tips to help protect your identity when away from home:
- Refrain from posting details or photos of your trip online until after you're home. These days, with the ease of smartphones, it's all too tempting to "check in" online and instantly post photos to social media, all while in a taxi or waiting in line at the airport. But doing so only broadcasts to the world that you’re not home, thus your house may be an easy target for burglars.
- Don't carry anything important in your back pocket. Airports are crowded places, and getting bumped into and jostled around is expected. It's all too easy for someone to “accidentally” bump into you and, at the same time, lift your wallet with your driver’s license, boarding pass, and maybe even your smartphone out of your pocket.
- Protect access to your devices and accounts. This is important all the time — but more so when you're traveling, taking your smartphone, tablet, and laptop with you. Use strong passcodes or other built-in security measures, for all of your devices, and make sure you have strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts and apps. Also, turn on any “find device” functionality that may help you locate a lost phone, tablet or computer. That same feature may also allow you to erase the data on the device if it’s gone for good.
- Separate your money. Keep different types of money in different places while traveling. Most of us use a wallet that holds not only our cash, but also all our credit cards and our ID. If you lose your wallet, you've lost everything, all at once. Instead, keep your cash in one place, and your credit cards in a different place, or at least set one emergency card aside. If you are traveling with both a driver's license and passport, store them in different places, as well. And remember, there's no need to take everything you own with you. If you have multiple credit cards, consider picking one or two to take with you, and leave the others in a safe place at home.
Be careful when using public Wi-Fi. When using public Wi-Fi, whether around town or when traveling, it's best to install and use a virtual private network, or VPN. This will encrypt your online activity, making it more difficult for criminals to “eavesdrop” on what you’re doing. Your best bet may be to leave banking and online shopping for later when you are absolutely certain you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network.