How Can I Keep My Identity Safe While I Travel?

Going on vacation is an exciting time, but it can also leave you vulnerable to identity thieves in many ways that you might not realize. Whether you’re getting out of town for a weekend, taking a cross-country road trip or spending a month abroad, it’s essential to make preparations to secure your identity while you’re gone. It can get especially tricky if you fall victim to identity theft while you’re in another country, as this will mean time spent out of your trip on the phone to straighten out any issues. Here’s a handy checklist of things you should do before, during and after you travel to protect your identity.

Before you travel

1. Alert credit card companies and your bank. Especially if you’re traveling to another country, it’s important to let your credit card companies and bank know where you’re going and what dates. This way, your account won’t be put on hold for suspicious activity if you make a purchase somewhere unusual. It’s also a good safety measure against someone using your card or bank account without your knowledge, because a transaction in your hometown while you’re supposed to be abroad is a giant red flag.

2. Be careful how much you share. It’s natural to want to share the good things happening in your life on Facebook and Instagram, but you put yourself at risk by sharing your travel plans on social media. If you do decide to post, be sure to double-check your security settings and ensure only those people you know can see your updates. Posting about an upcoming vacation publicly is like setting up a giant neon sign in your front yard that says, “Come on in, nobody’s home!” You might consider investing in a home security system if you plan on being gone long or travel often.

3. Secure your laptop and mobile devices. Make sure your smartphone, tablet and laptop are protected with a strong password if you plan on taking any of them with you. If you use mobile banking or other apps, you might consider uninstalling them until you return. At the very least, consider downloading a mobile security app like Bitdefender or Avast! that lets you lock apps to prevent unauthorized use.

During your trip

1. Have your mail put on hold. Mail piling up is a sure sign that someone hasn’t been home in a while. Not only does it put you at risk for a break-in, identity thieves can gather tons of personal information from stealing your mail. If you’re going to be gone for longer than a week, consider putting a hold on your mail with the Postal Service. You can schedule a hold up to 30 days in advance, or even wait until 2 a.m. CT on the date you’d like the hold to start. At the very least, ask a trusted friend or family member to collect your mail to keep it safe from thieves.