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It’s finally on the horizon — summer vacation.
You’ve been planning and preparing for this since the day the kids started school, and now that it’s here you’re looking forward to the warm weather and sunny beaches or a nice family outing.
Before you turn your back on the world for a few days, go the extra mile to ensure that your vacation doesn’t turn into a disaster.
Identity thieves are known to target unsuspecting tourists who are too loose with their personal information. Here are nine tips for protecting your personal information and finances while vacationing.
1. Pay in advance. Prepay for your hotel stay and any attractions you’re sure to take part in. Order event tickets in advance and pay the bills from home.
2. Clean out your purse or wallet. Only carry what’s necessary. Don’t carry all your credit cards, your Social Security card, or other documents that thieves can use to steal your identity. Smart cards, or cards that can be used at “payWave” and express pay stations, have radio frequency identification chips built in and transmit the card owner’s information using radio waves. Travel experts suggest using blocking sleeves or wallets for smart cards. Wrapping the cards in foil may also work. Only take your smart cards with you when you need them.
3. Protect your mobile devices. Using passwords to lock your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices prevents someone from being able to access your information if you lose the device.
4. Avoid ATM machines. Carry cash when possible, but if you have to use an ATM, make sure the ATM doesn’t have any attachments above or below the card slot and make sure you cover up the keypad as you enter your code.
5. Leave your checkbook at home and watch your cards closely. Never use a debit card at a restaurant or shop where you cannot witness the card-swipe transaction. To limit the chances of thieves clearing out your checking account, avoid using personal checks and debit cards. Never give your card number to anyone over the phone. If someone at the hotel requests it, walk to the front desk to confirm the reason for the request and the validity of it.
6. Use secure Wi-fi networks. Wi-fi networks that don’t require a password are wide open to hackers. Do not access online banking or sites that require your personal passwords while on insecure networks.
7. Use the hotel safe. If you must leave valuables in your hotel room, lock them in the room safe. Carry a photocopy of your passport. Never leave expensive items or personal documentation visible in a hotel room.
8. Try not to look like a tourist. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry, cameras, bags, and other items that might draw attention.
9. Purchase travel insurance. If your luggage is lost or something happens to your valuables, travel insurance may cover these items. If you have an accident or become ill on vacation, traveler’s insurance may cover the expenses associated with these issues. Check with your travel agent for specifics.