Whether a globetrotting adventure, dream destination or quiet beach getaway, nothing is quite as exhilarating as travel. The chance to discover new places, reconnect with our soul, or create new memories with friends and family is one of the best things in life.
Unless, of course, you’ve been the victim of identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports that in 2015, there were 781 tracked data breaches in the United States, the second highest year on record since 2005. Further, according to U.S. Justice Department figures, an estimated 17.6 million Americans—about 7% of U.S. residents age 16 or older—were victims of identity theft in 2014. Unfortunately, the lasting vacation memory will likely be the painful struggle to get their identities back.
You build customer loyalty when you make recommendations that help your clients protect their digital footprint before, during and after their trip. Here are a few tips for travelers to keep their identity secure while away and ensuring their trip runs smoothly:
1. Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans.
Many such companies now place freezes on accounts when they see suspicious activity like out-of-country use as a means to prevent fraud.
2. Clean out your wallet and before leaving.
Remove any receipts and expired cards, along with anything else you don’t absolutely need to carry while traveling.
3. Limit your use of public Wi-Fi as much as possible.
While these networks are incredibly convenient, they are often unsecure. Never access your financial accounts or any other sites that require a password when using public Wi-Fi.
4. Choose cash or credit cards over debit cards.
Travelers are often warned of the dangers of carrying around large amounts of cash, but some merchants still practice questionable transaction processes, making cash a safer method of payment. In most cases though, using a credit card is considered safe. Still, use the card’s credit option, not debit. If your card numbers ever get into the wrong hands, most credit card companies will quickly reverse or cover fraudulent charges, while recovering funds from your drained bank account can be more complicated.
5. Be cautious when using ATMs.
Inspect the machine carefully before inserting your card and always shield the keypad when entering your PIN to thwart fraudsters who attach card skimmers to the machine or watch your movements. The safest ATMs are attached to banks in well-lit areas.
6. Keep your phone password-protected.
If you’re not the type to keep a password guard on your phone, make an exception while traveling.
7. Check your credit card and bank statements often.
It’s best to catch fraud as early as possible to minimize damage and make resolution easier.
8. Check your credit report throughout the year.
Federal law requires the three major credit bureaus to provide you with a free credit report once a year. You can stagger these free reports every four months from each bureau to see your report somewhat regularly. Make sure you recognize everything on it. If something doesn’t ring a bell, look into it.
9. Change your PINs and passwords after a trip.
This is especially important if you logged into any accounts while on the road or accessed an ATM.
10. Make sure you properly dispose all trip confirmation emails and boarding passes.
Shred them before tossing them into the recycling bin, as they contain personally identifiable information.
Identity protection efforts provide peace of mind—and that’s exactly what travel is supposed to bring to our lives.
Paige Schaffer serves as the president and chief operating officer of the Identity & Digital Protection Services Global Unit at Europe Assistance USA Services, Inc. Based in Europ Assistance USA's Washington, DC, headquarters, Schaffer manages Europe Assistance USA's assistance and claims centers, including the travel assistance.