Traveling opens up a world of new possibilities for families, and it opens up one very big threat – identity theft while traveling. Travelers are especially at risk for data breaches and credit card fraud. Simply being away from home and not monitoring your accounts and data with as much vigilance as usual increases that risk. As does using strange and potentially unsecured credit card machines, ATMs, and even free public WiFi. Find out how to prevent identity theft while traveling with these important tips.
Identity Theft While Traveling
One thing I love about travel in today’s tech-filled world is convenience, especially when it comes to money. Gone are the days when I had to make a special trip to get travelers checks from my bank before an international vacation, or convert my cash into a dozen different currencies. ATMs, credit cards and online banking make money available at any hour, any day of the week, and in nearly any location. It’s liberating.
All those conveniences, of course, come with new challenges.
Having my personal information and financial accounts so easily accessible to me means there is a real risk that information is accessible to someone else.
As a frequent traveler, I see just how many opportunities there are for my information to fall into the wrong hands. I access financial accounts and use my credit cards all over the world. That makes me worry about who may then have access to them as well. Identity theft is increasing greatly with each passing year.
In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission received over 490,000 complaints – a 49% increase over the previous year.
How to Protect Your Kids
As a mom of a teen who is just learning to navigate the digital financial world, I’m aware of these risks even more. My son has grown up in the world of bits and bytes, but he’s just now starting to manage his money and his important personal data on his own. The statistics on identify theft are sobering for parents too. College students are currently the biggest victims.
Just a few weeks ago, my son had an experience with a very minor fraudulent credit card charge that taught us an important lesson. He used his credit card for $21 worth of takeout and drew a line through the tip line on the credit card receipt. We were soon contacted by our credit card company when they saw that he had apparently left a $20 tip on $21 worth of takeout. Apparently, someone had written over the line on the receipt to add in a little something extra.
It was a breach that was easily remedied via the Capital One credit card fraud department. And luckily the harm was minimal since it was caught early. Early detection is key to a successful outcome.
So many identity-related problems can be so much bigger – important passwords, your Social Security number, or even many thousands of dollars gone in an instant.
What’s a busy traveling mom with a family on the go to do? First, I’m using this an an opportunity for education. Our kids have to learn how to handle this kind of risk from day one. Just as I’m teaching my youngest son now how to drive, I’m also teaching him how to protect his identity and his personal information.
Second, it made me realize how important it is to take precautions to monitor and protect my family’s personal information going forward, especially when we are in so many different places as a busy family.
That’s why I was so excited to learn recently about new technology that Identity Guard, an industry leading identity protection company, offers to help protect families just like mine. Identity Guard’s parent company has been in the identity protection business for 20 years.
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It recently added Privacy Now to its arsenal to help guard in even more sophisticated ways against data breaches and identity theft. Privacy Now is powered by specialized technology from IBM Watson.
In layman’s terms, Privacy Now helps customers assess their personal risk of data breaches even before they happen – before an unauthorized charge is made. Privacy Now does this by delivering custom alerts to users that are tied to their unique personal profiles.
Factors as diverse as age (college students and seniors are especially at risk), state of residence, whether customers recently purchased a home, and even military service are all considered.
Privacy Now considers how users expose their personal data. So whether you use social media in a way that might post risk or whether you are simply likely to be a victim of one of those major retailer server hacks that always seems to be in the news, you’ll be informed as threats that matter to you evolve. It’s truly next generation identity protection.
It costs just $19.99 a month. That seems like a small price to pay to protect my family. In fact, it’s less than the $20 tip someone added to my son’s credit card charge.
In addition to stopping identity theft and credit card fraud before they happen, Privacy Now also offers a $1 million insurance policy to cover you if you become a victim of actual identity theft or credit card fraud. The plan helps you restore your good name while also providing financial insurance for costs like legal fees and even lost wages.
Privacy Now from Identity Guard therefore combines prevention, detection and restoration all in a single service.
Tips for Protecting Your Identity While Traveling
Of course, having a service like Privacy Now doesn’t mean we are free to act irresponsibly with our data and accounts. I still insist my family take smart steps to protect our information, especially when traveling. Here are my top 9 tips to avoid identity theft while traveling:
- Be wary of public WiFi. We all rely on our devices to stay in touch, but so many public WiFi networks simply aren’t secure. Use WiFi in cafes, hotels, and other public places sparingly and do not use them to access bank accounts if at all possible. The cost of using data via a personal hotspot may well outweigh the cost of exposure. Consider downloading an app like VyprVPN to use a more secure VPN network if on-the-go access is a must.
- Travel with locked devices. Ever think about just how much personal information is on your smartphone? Be sure to always have a secure passcode on all of your devices so that if one is lost, the data on it is still protected.
- Change passwords regularly. We are all inundated by passwords for everything. If you are like, me, you are probably tempted to use the same few passwords again and again. Be sure to use unique passwords for your most important accounts and change them often, especially after a trip.
- Set travel alerts on your credit cards. Always let your credit card companies know if you are headed out of the country and traveling somewhere new. Not only will this help make sure your own purchases aren’t declined as suspicious, but this will also help the credit card company spot unauthorized purchases happening somewhere they know you aren’t.
- Save your receipts and read your credit card statements. Sometimes fraud starts small. Having documentation like receipts to compare against your statements helps you catch a small problem before it becomes a big one.
- Don’t travel with too many cards. While it’s smart to travel with more than one credit card just in case one doesn’t work or isn’t accepted somewhere, it’s also smart not to travel with too many. If your wallet is lost or stolen, it’s a lot easier to call two companies than it is to call six. Take non-essential cards out of your wallet before a big trip.
- Don’t publish vacations on social media. This is particularly tough for me since my business is travel and social media. But I do try to avoid letting the world know when my entire family is away from home. (I often travel alone or with one child while my husband and other family members stay home.) You don’t want identity thieves to know that you are away from home and perhaps not checking your financial accounts as often as you otherwise might. If, like me, you do feel compelled to share those gorgeous photos of you vacationing on a beautiful beach somewhere, at least make sure your social media status updates are privacy protected to just your friends.
- Protect your mail back home. If you’re away from home, an identity thief could easily get access to your personal data via those letters piling up in your mailbox. Put a hold on your mail with the postal service, or ask a neighbor or hire a house sitter to collect it for you.
- Sign up with a protection agency. Even the best self-help tools fail sometimes, which is why an identity protection service like Identity Guard is a crucial partner too.
Have you ever experienced identity theft? What steps are you using to protect your family?