This was originally published on Monday, September 24, 2018, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
You’ve packed your bags and ready to leave your cares behind. You’re ready to start your vacation. But did you know that you could be vulnerable to identity theft and fraud while you travel?
Many travelers have had credit/debit cards, smartphones and other sensitive personal information stolen or lost while traveling. Not only does this cause undue stress, it can become a financial nightmare.
Before you leave
- Ensure your passport is valid! Some destinations require your passport expire after six months of entry into that country.
- Remove non-essential items from your wallet; take only the items you will need — ID, credit/debit cards that you plan to use and your passport. Leave your Social Security card at home.
- Ensure your laptop, smartphone and tablets are secured with a passcode.
- Contact your financial institution to tell them you are traveling, especially if you are traveling outside the country.
- Make copies of your ID, credit/debit cards, passport, visas, and other travel documents and give them to a relative or a friend you trust. In case these documents are lost or stolen, you will be able to show proof you had them in your possession.
- Download a locator app in case your smartphone is lost or stolen. Many of these apps have a function to lock your phone or even erase information.
- If you’re planning on being away for a long period of time, stop home deliveries. This is an indication you’re not home and makes you a target for a break-in. Go to your post office and have them hold your mail till you return. Bills and bank statements can fall into the wrong hands.
- If you’re traveling abroad, register your travel plans with the State Department. It’s free, and you can complete the form online. The nearest embassy or consulate can contact you if there is a family emergency or a state or national crisis while you are traveling.
While you’re away
- Use ATMs at a financial institution instead of high-traffic tourist areas, which usually are a prime area for thieves. Be on the look-out for skimming devices. Be sure to cover your keypad when entering your PIN.
- Lock up your valuables, travel documents and personal sensitive documents. Pay a little extra to use the room or hotel safe.
- Use a travel wallet, which is secured close to your body. There are radio frequency identification, RFID, wallets that keep your passports, credit cards and other items that have radio signals safe from being skimmed while in your wallet.
When you return
- Review your credit/debit card statements. Review your bank statement carefully to ensure there are no erroneous charges. Call your institution as soon as possible if you find something suspicious.
- About three to five months after you travel, check your credit report.
- If you believe you’re a victim of fraud, file a police report and then file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You should request to place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 24 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.