Preparing for a vacation this summer? As you make travel plans, plan also to protect your personally identifiable information. Doing so could help you avoid the theft and misuse of your identity. Here the Investigators at Kroll offer tips you can use before, during and after your vacation to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Verify the legitimacy of the companies you use to book your travel plans—check reviews and references to learn if the company might be a sham.
- Decide what payment information to carry—take only the card(s) you plan to use. Choosing credit over debit will not cause the initial loss of money from your bank account should the card be lost or stolen.
- Clean out your purse/wallet—remove items that you will not need on your trip (i.e., personal checks if you don’t plan on using them).
- Secure the items you leave behind in your home— sensitive personal information is always best locked away to avoid theft in the event of a burglary.
- Make note of important information in your wallet— record numbers on licenses, insurance cards, payment cards, etc., and contact information for each in case originals are lost or stolen.
- Do not announce your travel plans on your online social accounts—doing so could put you at the risk of burglary at home, hotel or vehicle.
- Place a hold on your mail and newspapers—avoid accumulation at your home that would alert passers- by of your absence.
- Make your electronic devices travel ready—remove unneeded files that contain personal information from your phone, tablet or laptop. Also, install a “find-my- device” application if available.
- Don’t post photos of your location online while you are away—understand there is a chance that someone you are not directly connected to online could see your posts and learn you are away from home.
- Do not leave items containing your personal information in a car or hotel room—make use of the hotel safe to protect such items when not in your possession.
- Avoid using open Wi-Fi hotspots—at least when logging into your personal online accounts. Look for a fully deployed Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) network which offers some security or use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when possible to avoid transmitting over open airwaves.
- Be aware of the potential for scams—don’t provide payment information over the phone to someone claiming to be from the hotel. Instead, if you get such a call, walk to the front desk to provide the information requested. Similarly, if you find a restaurant menu slipped under your door, think twice before ordering from it. It may be part of a scheme to steal your payment card data. Validate the solicitation with the hotel staff first.
- Check your belongings upon your return—make sure all items of identification and payment are still with you. Report any lost item to its issuer immediately.
- Check your payment accounts—verify that all charges made to the accounts were authorized. Notify the financial institution that issued the card/account of any charges you did not make.
- Use caution when posting online reviews of attractions you visited—use only initials to identify yourself, if possible. If your email address will be visible in the review, consider using a separate email address from your primary one. Use an address that does not reveal your name, age or birthdate.
- Be stingy with personal information when posting photos to your social networks—don’t include personal identifiers in your photo description or even within the photo itself.