Today I’m back with several more tips that I’ve picked up through research—and personal experience!—to help you protect your identity (and belongings) before you go on vacation, while you’re gallivanting about, and when you return home.
Before you go on vacation
- When you’re about to head off on some fantastic vacation, you may be tempted to post about it on Facebook. Don’t: this may tip off a burglar who’s trolling your area that your house is empty and ready for unsavory visitors!
- If you plan to take a laptop or other computer equipment on your trip, make sure it’s updated with the latest and greatest security software.
- When packing your bags, leave behind unnecessary items such as your checkbook, address books, or membership IDs. If your bag is stolen, you don’t want a thief identifying you (and, consequently, the address of your empty house!) from your Sam’s Club membership card!
- If you haven’t already password-protected your smartphone, do so. (This is particularly critical while traveling, though it’s something you should seriously consider doing when you’re at home, too.) Like most people, you probably keep all of your passwords and other personal data on your smartphone, so use a password to avoid unwanted access to that data. (I don’t want strangers to access my personal info—and also don’t want anyone calling Mom from my phone!)
- If you’re employing a house sitter or dog walker while you’re away, lock up your valuables before you leave, including bank statements or credit card bills contain personal information.
- Make copies of your credit card phone numbers, travel documents, and passport. Keep one copy with you (separate from the originals) and leave one at home with a trusted friend. In the event your wallet or purse is stolen during your trip, having those copies will make it a lot easier for you to get replacements quickly.
While on vacation
- Be wary of using public computers in Internet cafes, hotels, etc., because they are prime spots for someone to hack into your personal accounts. Never autosave information, and always make sure you fully close applications before walking away from the computer (to be on the safe side, delete your search history and cookies, too). Avoid doing any sort of banking activities from public computers.
- While you travel, use only secure wireless networks—not the free Wi-Fi often available in hotels, cafes, and other locations—and turn off the autoconnect feature (typically found in your phone’s settings) that makes your phone automatically look for and join Wi-Fi networks. As research by the staff of 8bitSumo.com demonstrates, your phone is particularly vulnerable to hackers when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
- When you tour about for the day, lock up your passport and other important documents in your hotel’s safe and take copies with you. This way, you still have easy access to the information if you need it (for example, if a medical emergency arises), but you don’t risk having your originals lost or stolen.
- Use ATMs carefully, because thieves are getting better and better at installing fake ATMs or card skimmers designed to register your PIN. Use only ATMs associated with large banks or hotel chains (although even these can be compromised), and use your hand to hide the keypad as you enter your PIN in case someone (or a camera) is watching you.
- If you’re traveling overseas with a parent who uses prescription medications, bring them in their original (labeled) containers in case there are questions as you go through security. When leaving your room for the day, lock the bottles up in the safe to ensure that no one steals the medicine (which can be resold locally) or copies down any personal information on the labels.
When you’re back home
- Review your credit card statements carefully to ensure that they show only your actual charges. Check your statements regularly for several weeks after your return in case someone snagged (and then sold) your credit card information.
When you’re traveling, your top priority is to experience the place and culture you’re visiting. Taking these simple precautions (as well as those I wrote about in Top 6 Safety Recommendations While Traveling) can help you have the peace of mind you need to avoid spending all your precious vacation time worrying!
Do you have any other recommendations for protecting your identity while traveling? Leave them here in the comments section or post them on the TWAP Facebook page.