You are probably familiar with how to protect yourself from identity theft at home. Secure your wireless networks, shred important documents, avoid giving out personal information online – taking these steps helps shield your information from prying eyes. ProtectMyID points out what you may not realize, though, is that you must practice equal if not greater vigilance with your information when you travel. Fortunately, you can minimize your vulnerability by observing five important tips.
Access the Web Securely
It is not always easy, but finding or creating a secure connection is important. When you transmit personal information online over an unsecured connection, like your hotel’s Wi-Fi, it is much easier to steal. Avoid entering passwords, logins and banking information over unsecured connections. Casual web surfing is ok, but try to avoid communicating anything sensitive.
You can access or create a secure connection in several ways. One of the easiest is to connect with an Ethernet cable directly to the wall or a modem. Wired connections are usually quite secure. According to Independent Traveler, if you are using a public computer, such as an Internet café, you can try a service like Authentic8. It allows you to run a browser in the cloud, keeping everything secure.
If you are on your own laptop over Wi-Fi, some sites, like Gmail, offer a secure version of their web pages. Using Gmail as an example, if you access the site using https://gmail.com, instead of the standard http://gmail.com, your username, password and email information will all be transmitted securely.
Some other sites, such as banking institutions, also offer an https version of their websites, and you should use them if possible.
Pay Attention to Your Accounts
It is easy to forget about the mundane aspects of life while you are away. However, the sooner you spot identity theft, the more damage you can prevent. Make sure you check your bank accounts and other important data regularly. Do this both during and after your travels. Thieves will sometimes wait for months before attempting to exploit your information, so check your accounts on a regular basis after you return home.
Watch Your Smart Phone
Smart phones are gold mines for identity thieves. Consider what information your phone contains, and protect it accordingly. Activate password protection. Never let your phone out of your sight, and preferably not even off of your person.
About.com points out that transmitting data over a 3G or 4G connection is safer than a using a regular, unsecured Wi-Fi connection. If you are worried about the data you are sending over your phone, use 3G or 4G, or make sure you are connecting over a secure Wi-Fi connection.
Cell phones have also expanded the definition of shoulder surfing. It used to refer to the practice of looking over your shoulder to gather information. According to LifeLock Identity Theft Resource Center, thieves will now shoulder surf as you use your phone, often standing nearby in an attempt to see or overhear important information. Seek privacy when communicating anything sensitive.
Use Certified ATMs and Credit Cards
Thieves will often place hidden cameras on ATMs, or install special card readers to record your card information as you use an ATM. Stand alone ATMs are more vulnerable to this. According to Corporate Travel Safety, you should try to find an ATM in a bank, as they are more difficult to tamper with.
You should also use a credit card instead of a debit card whenever possible. It much easier to dispute charges on a credit card, and thieves will not gain instant access to your bank account as they would with a debit card.
Minimize What You Carry and Use a Fanny Pack or a Travel Wallet
This advice has not changed much in the digital age. When you travel, only bring as much documentation as you need, and carry it attached to your person. Ideally, you will only carry a few cards and your passport in a travel wallet or a pack around your waist.
If you have too many documents to carry with you, secure them in a hotel safe before leaving your room.