Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, your risk of exposure to credit fraud may increase. Fortunately, taking a few simple steps before you travel can help reduce your risk of credit fraud and identity theft.
Nothing can spoil a vacation faster than the theft of your personal information. Sinead Curran, a 22-year-old student, learned this lesson first-hand. While vacationing in Belize, she left her passport and driver’s license in a drawer in her hotel room while she went on a daylong hike. When she returned, she found that the lock on her room was broken and her valuables were stolen. She later learned that someone had tried to open several new accounts in her name. Fortunately, she requested a credit freeze before any real damage was done.
“The hotel had a safe but it was broken,” says Currafn. “I didn’t think twice about leaving my stuff behind. When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is out to have a good time-some people are very untrustworthy. Next time, I’ll be sure to demand a room that has a working safe.”
Curran’s story shows that identity theft does not take vacations. In fact, whenever you leave home, you face an increased risk of identity theft-the fastest-growing consumer crime in America. When we travel, it is easy to get distracted, let mail pile up, use our credit and debit cards carelessly, and expose ourselves to pickpockets.
There is good news-traveling does not have to be a worrisome event. Whether you are planning a trip to Las Vegas or Rome, following these credit fraud and identity theft protection steps will help keep your identity safe while you are away:
Travel light. Leave unnecessary credit cards, your Social Security card, and bills at home. These documents could compromise your identity if lost or stolen while traveling. Make sure that you leave them in a secure place at home.
Use a hotel safe. Never leave your wallet, your passport, or any other documents containing personal information in your hotel room. Many hotel employees have access to your room and some may not be trustworthy. There is also the risk of burglary while you are out.
Use credit cards instead of debit cards. Many people believe that debit cards are safe because you need a PIN to use them. However, PINs are only necessary at ATM machines. Some merchants process debit cards as credit cards. In addition, ATM scams are very common, especially in popular tourist areas
Have the post office hold your mail or be sure a trusted person is bringing in your mail daily. Identity thieves frequently raid mailboxes in search of personal and financial information. A credit card offer or bank statement can be a gold mine for them.
Password-protect your handheld devices and laptops. Without strong passwords, identity thieves can easily access account information that might be stored on your hard drive.
Avoid using checks. Checking account fraud is one of the most difficult types of identity theft to recover from. When travelling, use cash, traveler’s checks or credit cards for purchases.
Beware of pickpockets. While traveling, you will frequently find yourself in a crowd, often shoulder-to-shoulder with others. This is the perfect setup for a pickpocket. Keep your credit cards and identification is a secure place. If you carry a wallet, avoid keeping any personal information or your Social Security card in the wallet.
Remember-protecting your identity while traveling means using precautionary measures to protect your interests both abroad and at home. Always take a proactive approach to fighting identity theft and credit fraud.
Credit Fraud and Online Shopping
Online shopping has opened up a new world of opportunities and a new realm of fear. As the problem of credit fraud continues to grow, the fear of falling prey to identity theft is also growing in the minds of people. Research shows that computer users are spending less time on the Internet due to fears associated with e-commerce. However, online shopping is actually quite safe if you follow a few safety precautions.
For several years, Cheryl Addison, a 36-year-old project manager, was a loyal online shopper. She purchased clothes, gifts, groceries, and prescription drugs from online retailers without a second thought. However, with the influx of recent media reports and data breach alerts, Addison has traded online shopping for what she perceives as a safer bet – brick and mortar retailers.
“I definitely miss the benefits of online shopping,” she says. “You can’t beat the 24-hour convenience and lower prices the Internet offers. But there are so many risks, especially with smaller online shops. You’re relying on technology, but can it really protect you?”E-Commerce Concerns
Addison’s concerns are valid, and are shared by millions of consumers around the world. According to technology research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., consumer anxiety about online security resulted in a $2 billion loss in e-commerce and banking transactions in 2006.
A Gartner study revealed that nearly half of online adults said their concerns about identity theft and data breaches affected their online behavior. The rising instances of lost consumer data files and unauthorized access to personal information are the main reasons for this concern among consumers, the report said.
According to research from TRUSTe, a privacy certification and seal program, and market information group TNS, the top six factors that limit or prevent consumers from conducting online transactions are:
- Credit fraud
- Identity theft
- Credit card theft
- Preference for brick and mortar stores
Are Online Stores to Blame for Identity Theft?
According to Avivah Litan, vice president and analyst at Gartner, although nearly all purchases at brick-and-mortar stores are electronically enabled today, online retail organizations suffer the highest toll because this is where consumers perceive the problem to be. However, Litan is quick to point out that brick-and-mortar businesses can leak credit card data just as easily as electronic merchants can because they also store data on computers that connect to the Internet.
The 2007 Identity Fraud Survey Report, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, reveals that more fraud occurs in traditional physical channels, such as in-person transactions, rather than online.
According to James Van Dyke, Javelin’s president and founder, while many people are wary of using the Internet to do their banking or shopping, using the Internet actually prevents criminals from accessing the sensitive information they are likely to steal from the trash. He points out that only two percent of those who steal identity information do so over the Internet. It is more likely that the theft will be committed through traditional means.
As customers who shopped at the brick-and-mortar stores of discount retailers TJ Maxx and Marshalls found out, shopping offline is just as risky as shopping online. Offline shoppers who paid for their purchases via credit or debit cards recently received alerts that a hacker had stolen their personal information. The theft dated back to 2003 and involved millions of card accounts.
This story highlights a simple fact that most customers do not realize – shopping offline is shopping online. When you shop in a retail store, your card data ends up stored in a company’s computers, which are ultimately connected to the Internet.Credit Fraud Protection – Online and Offline
Whether you doing business online or offline, you should be aware that all transactions involving personal and financial information come with some very real risks. These basic tips will help prevent identity theft and fraud:
Be proactive. Checkout The 5 Best Credit Monitoring Services In 2017 to help stop identity theft before it happens from TrustedID, Identity Guard, LifeLock, ProtectMyID, and ID Patrol from Equifax.
Shop only on secure Web sites. A secure Web site uses a special computer communication known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which encrypts data and breaks it up so that outsiders cannot read the information. To ensure your purchase is protected by secure technology, look at your Internet browser for a padlock symbol in your browser or check to see that the address bar changes from “http” to “https”.
Shop with reputable merchants. If it is your first time shopping with a company, do your homework. Third-party verification devices, such as VeriSign, TRUSTe or the Better Business Bureau, can validate a site’s reputation. In addition, a reputable merchant will always have a phone number and contact information.
Use strong passwords for your online accounts and change them frequently. Never use your phone number, birth date, or name in user names and passwords. Always make sure passwords use a combination of letters, numbers, and other characters.
The benefits of online shopping can far outweigh the risks. In fact, due to recent online security breakthroughs, some believe that online shopping can be safer than shopping over the phone or even in person.