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Ask the Expert: What identity theft prevention measures should I take when traveling?

Identity theft prevention isn't usually very high on anyone's list of travel priorities — but it should be high on your pre-travel checklist. Just by taking a few identity theft prevention steps, you can enhance your peace of mind while you're on the road and protect yourself from some of the preferred methods of identity theft.

Identity Theft Prevention Steps to Take Before You Leave

  • Check your credit report beforehand if you'll be away for a while. Just as a precaution, make sure there are no signs of identity theft in your credit report before you leave. The longer it takes to uncover identity theft, the greater the cost of restoring your name.
  • Protect your mail. Thieves can use stolen mail to create or break into financial accounts in your name. Ask your postal carrier or a trusted neighbor to hold your mail while you're away.
  • Lighten your wallet or purse. Identity theft prevention experts urge you to carry only as many credit or debit cards as you need. Store your other cards securely, either at home or at your bank. Don't carry extra checks, extra deposit slips or any other documents containing your account numbers or your Social Security Number; those are a gold mine for savvy identity thieves.
  • Register your credit and debit cards with a credit card registry service. If your cards are lost or stolen, one phone call can cancel them and start the replacement process.

Identity Theft Prevention Steps to Take When You're Traveling

  • Guard your passwords and PINs at all times. Be sure to hide the keypad from others when entering your PIN in a public ATM to prevent a “shoulder surfer” from stealing your PIN.
  • Protect your credit card receipts; a discarded credit card receipt is an invitation to thieves.
  • Store your extra cash, passport and other unused identifying papers in the hotel safe. If you won't be using a particular credit card on a given day, store that in the hotel safe as well.

Identity Theft Prevention Steps to Take When You Return

  • Check your credit card and bank statements. While this isn't, strictly speaking, an identity theft prevention tactic, it's a good way to look for immediate signs of fraudulent activity in your accounts.
  • Order another credit report if you've been away for a while. Like monitoring your financial statements, this isn't quite a prevention measure, but it can alert you to signs of identity theft that may have occurred during your absence.

In this day and age, unfortunately, identity theft prevention requires an ongoing effort on your part, even — or perhaps especially — while you're traveling. The good news is that, by doing a little bit of pre-travel planning and paying attention to your identifying documents, you can make great strides in identity theft prevention.


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