By Guest Blogger Jess Signet
Traveling can be an exhilarating and life-affirming experience. You plan for weeks to get everything in order, and then you are ready to have some fun.
What isn’t fun? Having your identity stolen while you’re traveling. In the best case scenario you have to stop everything for a few days while you get everything in order. In the worst cases you lose a great deal of money trying to get home to sort out the whole sordid affair. You need to know what you are dealing with and have a prevention plan so you can continue to enjoy yourself without worry.
Here are the five top ways you can become the victim of identity theft while you travel and what you can do to prevent it.
The greatest passive threat to your identity that you will encounter while you travel will be public networks. More specifically, the hackers that like to lurk and intercept transmissions on public networks (which is all of them) will be watching you and waiting for you to slip up. They use “sniffer” programs to intercept all incoming and outgoing traffic and love travelers as they often don’t have secure home networks to utilize for their banking and personal information management.
The best way to depend yourself while using these (necessary) public networks is to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. A VPN will connect your device to an offsite secure server using an encrypted connection. This encryption means that no matter what network you are on, no one will be able to intercept the data
cybercriminals use to perform identity theft. Additionally, your IP address will be masked by the server you connect to, so you won’t have to be concerned
by regional restrictions and government censorship you may encounter while you travel (for this reason you might want to find one that is well reviewed for things such as Netflix).
You probably knew that you’d have to worry about pickpockets and losing your wallet or purse while on vacation, but were you aware that pickpockets are also interested in your identity if they can get it? Travelers often carry a wealth of information on them such as their passport, credits cards, an ID and even some important
travel documents. All of these combined would certainly be enough for someone to make a few purchases with your card or even cause real damage to your bank
You shouldn’t carry everything on your person at all times. Find a safe place in your hotel or your luggage where you can store some things. Make sure that you always have materials youcan use to reestablish yourself if you are pickpocketed or your luggage goes “missing.” Have several cards, and know how to use them.
Fortunately this doesn’t happen as much as it used to due to the implementation of preventative measures and the rise of the internet, but card skimming is still popular among criminals and shady businesses and you need to be on the watch for it while you travel. It doesn’t even have to take place in a back room. A small attachment to a card reader (which you probably wouldn’t notice) is enough to take your information without you even knowing it.
The best way to protect yourself from this problem would be to use cash whenever you shop or get food. There is no way someone can perform identity theft (or even know your real name) if you are using the local currency. Hotels and plane tickets are safe for card use, but be suspicious of everywhere else, especially if your instincts are telling you something is off.
There are plenty of scam artists and criminals that look for travelers to try and trick them out of their information. They usually appear near an official place or busy district
and try to say that you will need some document or they offer to sell you discount tickets to an event. You need nothing, and they can’t get cheaper
tickets and make a profit. Most will try to just get you to waste money, but others will try to get your information to later steal your identity.
This is where clever searching and a healthy data plan become really handy. If you think someone is trying to scam you or defraud you, ask for a few minutes to yourself and look them up. You’ll be likely to find answers one way or another. If not, err on the side of caution.
Vulnerabilities at Home
Do you have a house sitter or someone watching the cat? Are there any files or mail that will be left out in the open? Perhaps someone just wanted to use your streaming account and they didn’t realize you could still use yours while you were away. All of these factors are related to potential identity theft, and you need to think of them
before you leave. If someone knows you’re gone they might very well try to break in or steal your mail. They’ll likely find enough information to cause you some real harm.
The best possible option is to lock everything you have away while you travel and have a trusted friend or family member check in on things and pick up the mail while you’re gone. You might be lucky enough to have a roommate or a family member who isn’t traveling with you to handle this without too much difficulty. If not, see if you can
have most of your communications be electronic from now on. It might save you from identity theft.
Surviving identity theft is not easy, and the fact that you’re away from home only makes it more difficult. Just make sure to follow the above tips adjusted for the particulars of wherever you are traveling. Knowledge and planning are your very best friends and the carelessness your biggest obstacle.
Do you have any experience yourself dealing with identity theft when you were away from home? Do you have any other general tips to share with your fellow readers? If you do (or if you just want to share your thoughts) please leave a comment below. We love hearingwhat you have to say.
Jess is an avid traveler who is never in one place for very long. She has been traveling from a young age and enjoys passing her knowledge and tips on to others. You can keep up with Jess and her adventures on Twitter at: @JesssTravels
Vinnie VanGo welcomes Jess Signet and other travel experts to contribute articles of interest to airline travelers in GO Cities for publication in “GOing Places.”