Summertime means travel season is underway. While traveling can be a relaxing and fun, it can also be an identity theft nightmare for you. Vacationers typically carry more personally identifiable information with them than usual, including passports, airline tickets and extra credit cards. Likewise, they also typically travel with more money in their bank accounts, making them prime targets for criminals. BBB is warning consumers to use extra precautions to keep identity thieves from spoiling your vacations this summer.
“When consumers go on vacation, identity thieves go to work”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “A little preparation can go a long way toward making your trip more enjoyable.”
BBB provides the following 10 preventive tips to help avoid identity theft while you are away from home:
1. Don’t announce your travel plans on social media; this invites identity thieves to target your house while you’re away. Turn off location settings and refrain from posting photos until you return.
2. Place a hold on your mail. When criminals see an overflowing mailbox, they see an easy way to steal personal information. Likewise, have a neighbor pick up your newspapers or place them on hold as well.
3. Carry only necessities in your wallet when traveling. Go through your wallet and leave at home your library card and other cards with your name on them. It's a good idea to bring as few credit cards as possible when you travel, making them easier to keep track of as well as being easier to reconcile receipts with statements upon your return.
4. Set up a travel alert on your credit card accounts, and freeze your credit with the three credit bureaus. This will prevent others from attempting to create new accounts while you are away.
5. Leave your laptop computer at home if you can. If you must travel with a laptop, update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Do not access bank accounts from your laptop while in a hotel room or at a coffee shop or any other Wi-Fi hot spot.
6. While staying at a hotel, lock important documents such as your passport in the hotel safe.
7. Use only ATMs located in banks. If you bring a debit card, use it as a credit card, refraining from entering your PIN number on unfamiliar devices.
8. Protect your smartphone. Create a password for access, and use an application with a GPS locator to find your phone if it is lost or stolen.
9. Don’t put your full name and address on luggage tags. Include just your last name and phone number.
10. Shred, or at the very least, tear up and discard used boarding passes. Many travelers leave boarding passes behind in airplanes or hotels. They often contain full names and other personal information.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to BBB.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.