Here's How You Can Avoid Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft When Traveling Away From Home
There's no foolproof way to prevent fraud and identity theft, but there are things you can do to lower your chances of becoming a victim
Do you have an upcoming trip? Your identity is your most important asset. So whether you're traveling across the state or around the world, don't forget to take the necessary precautions to protect it. Thousands of people each year become victims of fraud and identity theft while traveling. Not only can it ruin a trip, it can require a lot of work to remedy and cause a lot of stress in the process.
- Notify your credit card companies that you will be leaving town.
- Thin down your wallet and purse.
- Carry a spare.
- Avoid front-desk fraudsters.
It may seem like a silly thing to do, but alerting your credit card companies to your upcoming travel can solve a lot of headaches before they happen. Depending upon your destination, your companies may decline your legitimate charges as potential fraud, which can prevent you from purchasing what you need. Additionally, though, your credit card company can be on the alert to transactions that might get initiated in places other than where you are traveling, which can prevent potential fraud. So let the credit card companies know where you are going and when. Much of this can now be done online without talking to a live person.
Many people take too much stuff with them on vacation, which includes valuables and unnecessary credit and debit card. Leave the items you don't need at home. Many experts suggest taking two credit cards with you, keeping one with you and keeping the other in your hotel room.
While none of us want to think that anything bad will ever happen to us, bad things sometimes happen. 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. If keeping a spare wallet isn't an option, carry only the items you need at any given time and keep things separated so you don't have to hand over everything.
Many times identity thieves will wait until you're 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 information 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, don't 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 cancel them.
- File a police report with the local police agency.
- 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. Even if you think this information is visible only to friends, other people may be able to see it from their accounts. Very often, too, friends and family will steal from you.
- Place a temporary hold on all mail and newspapers so it doesn't look like you're gone.
- 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.