Imagine sipping Mai-Tais on the beach in Tahiti, and it comes time to pay the tab. Your card has been declined because it has been maxed out. But how can that be? You have a $5,000 max on your card, and you’ve only been gone for 3 days! I, myself, have been a victim of identity theft and it was a tremendous hassle to get it sorted out. Traveling is fun, challenging and rewarding. However, it can also put our finances at risk. Safeguard yourself from identity theft. Here are 6 ways to protect yourself while traveling.
- Enlist the help of your financial institution. Make sure to tell your bank when you are traveling. Have them put flags on your account that will notify you when a purchase has been made, or your balance dips beneath a set amount. Consider putting a daily limit on your account that can only be lifted with a phone call.
- Travel with two credit cards, not your debit card. There is an extra layer of protection you get with a credit card that you just don’t get with a debit card. The debit card directly accesses your bank account. Not something you want a thief to have. Don’t travel with your credit cards in the same pocket. Split them up so if one is stolen, you still have the other. Make sure you have the credit card phone numbers with you so you can call the credit card company immediately if something happens.
- Freeze your credit. Restrict access to your credit report and make it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. To freeze your credit report you have to reach out to all three credit reporting agencies. Keep in mind there may be a small fee in freezing your report, but it may be well worth it.
- If you are going to be traveling for an extended period of time, request a credit report before you travel. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the credit bureaus. You can request one from one institution before going and another when you come back (from another credit bureau). While the scoring might be different, they primarily have the same information. Having a baseline of your finances will help you stay on top of things should they go awry. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228.
- Change your passwords. Change your passwords often and strengthen them. Use encryption and stick to an encrypted password wi-fi whenever possible. If you are somewhere, that offers free open wi-fi avoid checking your bank accounts and don’t make credit card purchases. Open wi-fi is a hacker’s best friend. Make sure your phone is also password protected.
- Act fast! If your wallet has been lost or stolen, call the credit bureaus and activate a fraud alert. Fraud alerts are generally free. Make sure you are enrolled in online banking so you can check your finances frequently and alert your bank the second there is a charge you don’t recognize. The quicker you are to react, the sooner you can save your accounts from any dishonest transactions.
Have you ever bee a victim of fraud while traveling abroad? What did you learn from that experience? Share your suggestions in the comments below!