At one time, going on vacation meant we could let our guard down and be carefree. Unfortunately, in this technological age, you simply cannot afford to do that. Scammers are everywhere and very good at what they do. The Benjamin Franklin axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies. Here are some tips to keep you, your family and identity safe while enjoying your vacation.
1. Notify your bank. Traveling out of state or overseas while using your bankcard could cause a fraud alert to appear and suspend your account. A quick phone call would prevent this hassle.
2. Be cautious when searching for rental properties on websites like Craigslist. A legitimate rental will not ask for payment via wire transfer.
3. Avoid stand-alone ATM’s. Scammers like these because they are able to attach a credit card skimmer with less risk of detection. The same applies for gas stations when paying at the pump. Give the card reader a quick pull. A fake one will not feel secure.
4. Stay on guard even in your hotel. If you receive a phone call from the “front desk” asking you to confirm your payment method, hang up. It is a scam. If the hotel really has an issue, they will ask you to come to the front desk.
5. Stay alert. Identity thieves’ techniques evolve, especially in the technological age but some will always rely on good old-fashioned pickpocketing. Safeguard your wallet, purse and phones.
6. Save the social media posts. Wait until you are home to share the photos of your family vacation. You don’t want to announce when your home will be empty.
7. Make sure you place a hold on newspaper and mail deliveries. A full mailbox or several newspapers on your porch are sure signs no one is home.
8. Only take what you will need. Leave the extra credit/bank cards at home. Do you really need your social security card with you? Birth certificate? If not, leave it at home.
9. Take photocopies or a picture of all the information in your wallet, including the front and back photos of your credit/bank cards, I.D., passport, etc. Keep the copies in a safe place, not your wallet or purse. One option is to email the copies to yourself so it will always be available.
10. Be wary of free Wi-Fi. Free means open airwaves and everything you do is transmitted over an unsecured connection and makes you vulnerable. Some Wi-Fi connections are fake and are set up by hackers just to steal your information. Always double check with the location to see if it is official.
11. Don’t leave expensive or important belongings in the hotel room. Use a safe if one is provided in the room. If not, ask the front desk for another alternative.
12. Many credit/bank cards are now equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, which makes stealing your information easier for high-tech scammers. Consider using a RFID blocking wallet, purse or case.
13. Most importantly, if anything does happen, act fast. Contact your bank or credit card company as well as the credit reporting bureaus. If your ID is stolen, file a police report immediately. This is necessary for creating a paper trail as well as a timeframe for the theft. If traveling overseas and your passport is lost or stolen, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They can help you with a replacement. You should also call the local police and file a report.