According to a new report from Generali Global Assistance, the summer of 2018 is expected to be one of the most-traveled on record, with nearly 68% of Americans packing their bags. And while travel is generally a rewarding experience, travelers remain one of the most vulnerable groups to identity theft because they are often carrying more sensitive documents than usual and can be more unaware of their environment.
However, with a few precautions, travel can be safer for you and your identity.
53 percent of thefts of consumers' identity data are "non-digital," meaning they don't involve — or at least, don't start with — the thief exploiting some cyber vulnerability.
- Purge the Purse and Weed the Wallet. Travel with only the necessary credit cards and documentation. In the event of theft, this makes shutting down accounts easier and reduces the risk of additional personal information being stolen.
- Ditch the Debit Cards. Credit cards often have more security protocols in place – especially if you alert them of your travels in advance - and can reimburse stolen funds faster. An identity thief that steals a debit card can gain access to your bank account and cause significantly more damage with that information. Consider procuring a gift card-style credit card that’s unlinked to any account for even more security. These are often available from most banks and credit card companies like Visa and American Express.
- Ascertain the ATMs. If you’re planning on withdrawing cash from an ATM, stick to those found in bank lobbies since they often have higher security and are less vulnerable to tampering. Card skimmers can be attached to machines that read credit card numbers and record PINs. Look for a blinking light on the card slot and check the keypad for stickiness. Both could be a sign that the machine has been compromised.
- Secure Your Stuff. Wired recently reported on a vulnerability in hotel room key technology that allows clever thieves to create hotel master keys. While it’s unclear how many hotels its affects, it’s always smart to keep valuables – especially passports – locked in hotel safes (though, these aren’t failproof either).
Without the comfort of secure connections or secure storage, electronic devices can be another gateway for identity theft. Information stolen while traveling may not be used to commit fraud for weeks or months after it’s captured.
- Leave the Laptop. Chances are that there’s significant personal information on your computer, with access to e-mail, browsing history, and stored passwords and account number. If it’s possible, keep your laptop at home and reduce the number of devices you bring with you.
- Be Wise with WiFi. Avoid unsecured networks often found in airports, cafes and hotel lobbies. If you do use these, avoid accessing sensitive websites like personal banking. Connections within hotel rooms are often more secure. For an added layer of protection, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that can help encrypt your connection.
- Scan Your Statements. From a secure connection, check your accounts intermittently to ensure there’s nothing suspicious. If you do find something, report it to your financial institution right away.
It’s also important to be mindful that your home can be a target for identity thieves while you’re traveling, so make sure you stop mail or packages from piling up outside during your trip.
Since it can take weeks, months or even years for an identity theft incident to turn into fraud, an identity protection program is an important component of a proactive effort to reduce the costly and frustrating consequences.
For more information about identity protection from your Alumni Association available through The Alumni Insurance Program, click here.