Avoiding Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft When Traveling
In the event that you do become a victim, the most important thing to do is not panic
Have an upcoming vacation or business trip? Whether you're traveling across the state or around the world, don't forget to take the necessary precautions to protect your most important asset — your identity!
Every year, thousands of people become victims of credit card fraud and identity theft while traveling. Not only can it ruin a trip, but it can require a lot of work to remedy and cause a lot of stress in the process.
Before you hit the road or board a plane or train, it's important to:
- Notify your credit card companies that you will be leaving town.
- Weed your wallet and purse.
- Carry a spare.
- Avoid front-desk fraudsters.
Let them know exactly when, where, and for how long you will be gone. This way there will be no confusion when charges start showing up in strange places. It will also make it easy to stop fraudulent charges should someone try to use your card someplace you are not.
Take only what you absolutely need with you on your vacation. Make certain that any valuables and unnecessary credit and debit cards, check books, etc. are left at home. Experts recommend taking two credit cards with you, keeping one on you at all times and the other securely locked away in your hotel room.
While none of us want to think that anything bad will ever happen to us, the fact of the matter is that they sometimes do. In the event that you get held up by thieves in a strange city, keep a spare wallet with you containing a few dollars and some old hotel room keys. If you get held up, you can hand over the spare wallet and keep the real thing.
Many times identity thieves will wait until you're are sleeping to call your room and catch you off guard. They will pretend to be the front desk, asking for your credit card number to clear up a billing error. NEVER GIVE YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER OVER THE PHONE. Instead, tell the person on the phone that you will visit the front desk in the morning to address the problem.
In the event that you do become a victim, the most important thing to do is not panic. The moment you realize your wallet or credit card has been stolen, you should immediately:
- Notify the issuers of your credit and debit cards so they can immediately cancel the cards.
- File a police report with the local police station.
- Monitor your accounts for any fraudulent activity and alert the card issuer the moment something shows up.
- Begin using your spare credit card.
- In the months that follow, be sure to monitor your credit report for any new accounts that may have been fraudulently created with your information.
Additionally, before you leave home:
- Don't announce your travel plans on social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Place a temporary hold on all mail and newspapers.
- Remove personal information from your electronic devices and ensure that they are secured with strong passwords.
- Leave your checkbook at home.
IMPORTANT: If you are traveling abroad and your passport is lost or stolen, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate immediately for assistance.