Five tips to avoid being an identity theft victim while on vacation

Chicago IL. Home Inspection

Whether you are planning a trip over the holidays or looking ahead to the spring or summer for a family vacation, realize that identity theft can happen wherever you are and also where you’re not. More than 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. When someone uses your personal information – your name, Social Security number or credit card number – without permission, they are stealing your identity.

How can you protect yourself while you’re away? Here are five tips to avoid being a victim:

1. Stop your mail. How many pieces of junk mail, including pre-approved credit card applications, do you get every day? If your mail is sitting at your curb, it can be easy for someone to go through, pick what they are looking for, and take off. You can stop your mail online at usps.com. Don’t worry if you forget until the last minute as it only needs to be done by 2 a.m. CST on the first day you want it held in order to take effect. Also, ask a trusted neighbor to watch for packages that may come from another source besides the Postal Service, and to hang on to them until you return.

2. Don’t advertise that you’re on vacation. Make sure if you are going to post vacation updates to social networking websites that your posts are secure – or better yet, don’t post anything about it until after your return. Put a few lights on a timer system so that your home doesn’t look unoccupied for the entire time you’re gone.

3. Enroll in a protection product that safeguards your most valuable asset, your identity. You may think you have all your bases covered, but it can be harder than you think. One way to make sure you’re protected against identity theft is by using a product that monitors if you are vulnerable to having your identity stolen. One offering, ProtectMyID, is a comprehensive identity theft detection, protection and resolution product designed to help people prevent the damages caused by identity theft. ProtectMyID, backed by Experian – a leader in protecting personal information – offers alerts via text or email of potentially suspicious activity as well as resolution assistance to help you cut through the red tape. Learn more at www.ProtectMyID.com.

4. Keep your checkbook at home. If you don’t want to use cash or credit cards, purchase traveler’s checks instead of bringing your checkbook. A stolen checkbook has your bank account number and routing number on the checks – valuable tools a thief can use to steal your identity or clean out your bank account. Traveler’s checks require a signature when you purchase them, and then another when you use them at a store or restaurant on your travels. And, usually a photo ID is required when you use them. A thief that steals them will find them much harder to use.

5. Give your credit card company a heads up. This is especially important if you are traveling internationally, because any activity that happens domestically will raise a red flag. If you don’t let them know, they may become concerned when they see overseas transactions and freeze your card. Few things will make your vacation turn sour faster than not being able to buy things.

Make sure you’re educated about what makes you vulnerable and how you can protect yourself. Holiday season is travel season, and identity thieves will be on the lookout for opportunities. A few steps will go a long way towards protecting your identity, and your peace of mind, while on vacation.

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