Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Preventing identity theft while you travel

Preventing identity theft while you travel, Summer vacation is supposed to be relaxing! Turns out some of us are already stressed when it comes to plotting trips and travel. What's the worry? A new survey found that identity theft while traveling is a top concern! 70% of Americans are more concerned about having their identity stolen while on vacation, than travel costs and airline issues.

Consumer Expert Adam Levin of Credit.com & Identity Theft 911 shared his advice with News You Can Use about how to protect your credit and identity while you’re on the go this summer. Here are his 9 tips on how to thwart thieves:

1. Let your credit-card company know if you'll be traveling (especially if you're leaving the country). Financial institutions' fraud departments are becoming more vigilant about any unusual activity on your card, which can be a great way to detect a problem. But if you're away from home when the bank calls to verify the charges, you could end up with a frozen account while you're out of town.
2. Don't automatically call back the phone number that claims to be from the bank. If you get a phone call or e-mail about suspicious activity on your card, don't automatically call back the number on the message -- that's a common ploy by identity thieves to capture personal information. Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card instead. If the call was legitimate, they'll be able to connect you to the appropriate department.
3. Secure your mail while you're gone. Have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail every day, or stop your mail at the post office if you'll be gone for a while. Your mail can be a treasure trove for criminals -- containing your credit-card numbers as well as personal information that could lead to identity theft.
4. Don’t Be DUMB with your SMARTPHONE – Password protect your phone, don’t leave financial/banking sites and apps open on your phone, don’t automatically connect to public WIFI are just a few obvious tips says Levin.
5. Weed out your wallet (and don’t leave in rental car glove box!) Business/Tourist destinations are often a haven for pickpockets, so go through your wallet and take out unneeded credit cards and personal information before you leave. Don't carry your Social Security number in your wallet, and only take the credit cards that you need.
6. Be wary of generic ATMs. Banks have been reporting an increase in ATM-skimming incidents. This is when thieves install a card reader in an ATM to capture your account information and PIN number, so they can steal from your account.
7. Check your accounts regularly for suspicious activity. "Spend a few minutes online every day looking at your bank and credit-card accounts, and make sure every transaction is yours," says Levin. This is a good idea all the time, but it's particularly important when you're out of town and might miss a call from your bank about suspicious activity
8. Don't leave personal information lying around in your hotel room. Keep your credit cards and other important information with you or lock them up in the hotel safe, says Levin, and leave your checkbook in a safe place at home, if possible. Safeguard your laptop computer, too, especially if it has account information that is not encrypted.
9. Be vigilant after you return home. Identity thieves are known for their patience, and it can take them a long time to pounce. Check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com for any suspicious activity -- you can get one free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months, and you can stagger your requests so you can see one copy every four months.

(The survey mentioned above was part of a Roper Omnitel Poll conducted by GfK Custom Research from interviews conducted taking place from April 19 – 21, 2013. A total of approximately 1,004 interviews were completed, with approximately 500 female adults and 500 male adults. The margin of error on weighted data is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample.)

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