It’s that time of year. School is out and millions of Americans are taking to the roads, rails and airways to get away for family vacations. According to the US Travel Association, 2.3 percent more vacation travel is expected this year than in 2009.
Frequent travelers expose themselves to the risk of identity theft. Moreover, a recent study released by Spider Labs / Trustwave, showed that 38 percent of the hacking charges in 2009 involved the hotel industry.
With that in mind, Intersections and the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC) today advised business and leisure travelers to be aware of their increased exposure on the road and to learn how to protect themselves from becoming the next victim of identity theft.
Intersections and ITAC recommend the following safety tips for travelers:
• Protect your home from burglars and identity thieves before you leave. Have your mail collected or held at the Post Office, ideally have someone visit and turn lights on and off, and do not leave financial documents lying in plain view.
• If you need to access your email from cyber cafe or other establishment, limit your access, avoid entering any passwords to your personal financial accounts, and be sure to log off when you are finished with your session.
• Try to avoid “tweeting” or blogging about your travel plans or talking about them on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Thieves may use this information to target empty homes.
• Protect yourself from key loggers, hackers, spammers, and botnets by installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your laptop computer.
• If browsing the Internet with a wireless connection, do not assume public “hot spots” are secure. Ensure you are using encryption to scramble communications over a network.
• If you’re staying at a hotel or motel and receive a call from the reception desk asking that you confirm a credit card number, tell them you’ll provide the information at the front desk instead. The call could easily be a random one from outside the hotel.
• Bring as few credit cards as possible and ideally carry just one with you and keep a backup card in the hotel safe. Bring a copy of the emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts in case they’re lost or stolen.
• It is recommended that travelers do not use their debit cards while on vacation to further protect their checking accounts.
• When withdrawing money from an ATM, be cautious, and be protective of your PIN.
• Beware of pickpockets–remove all documentation and cards from your wallet or purse that you don’t need during your travels and
• Use cash or travelers checks wherever possible to minimize the risk of credit card fraud or overcharging (this can also help avoid costly exchange fees if you’re traveling abroad).
• Make a photocopy of the cards and documents in your wallet or purse, including credit and ATM cards, store cards, drivers’ licenses, etc. Leave the copy with someone you trust so if your wallet or purse is stolen, you’ll know what to cancel. Or enroll in a card registry program that has your card information on file.
• If you’re leaving for an extended period consider using a credit and public monitoring service that alerts you to potentially suspicious activity.
We hope you will keep these tips in mind when traveling this summer. Have a safe and wonderful time, no matter where your travels may take you. Just remember . . . be careful out there!