Don't Let Identity Theft Spoil Your Summer Vacation

Identity theft

Content provided courtesy of USAA.

Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy a much-needed vacation. Unfortunately, it can also be a playtime for identity thieves.

One in 10 travelers has fallen victim to identity theft, according to the 2015 Experian Summer Travel and Budgeting Survey Report. Identity thieves use the personal information they pilfer for their own financial gain. So while you're enjoying a budget vacation, the thieves could be enjoying an all-inclusive vacation at your expense. Talk about spoiling the fun.

How can we protect ourselves from identity thieves?

We can start by being proactive. The Experian survey shows that fewer than 2 in 5 travelers check their bank statements, and 1 in 4 say they don't take any extra precautions to protect their identities while on vacation.

Here are a few things I plan to do before I leave for vacation this summer:

  • Keep it quiet on social media. You won't see any pictures on my Facebook page until after I return. The only people who will know are the ones who need to know.
  • Contact my credit card company and bank. I'll let them know when and where I'm traveling so they can keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
  • Put a hold on my mail. I'll arrange to have all important documents delivered electronically, but I'll still contact the post office to place a hold on my mail.
  • Only take what I need. I'll remove unneeded credit cards, debit cards and other personal information from my wallet and lock them in a safe place.

While on vacation, I'll do the following:

  • Protect my phone. I've got a password and use biometrics on my phone. It's scary to think how much personal information is on our mobile devices.
  • Only use secure online networks and devices. Public networks and hotel guest computers can be fertile ground for identity thieves.
  • Check my bank accounts and credit. I also set up balance alerts to notify me before a thief can do too much damage.
  • Keep my wallet and personal information secure. I won't leave anything important in the hotel room. If you must, make sure you use the safe.
  • Be cautious when swiping my credit or debit card. From gas station pumps to ATMs, skimmers are on the prowl. I'll use discretion before swiping and primarily use my credit card, since it offers better protection than my debit card, and the money won't immediately come out of my bank account if there is an issue.

While these tips won't completely eliminate the risk of identity theft, we can do our part to reduce it or catch it sooner.

I plan to enjoy my summer, and I hope you will too. Have fun and be safe.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California, License # 0E36312), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer.

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