As a traveler, you’re often carrying valuables and sensitive documents, while walking around in a tired or distracted state. Because of this, tourist hotspots make prime targets for identity theft.
Even if you aren’t mugged or pickpocketed, a savvy thief can snatch sensitive data off of your cards and passport without you even realizing it.
The impact of identity theft can be devastating. With the right information, thieves can access your bank account, make purchases, open credit cards or open loans under your name, and wreak havoc on your credit score.
Even if you have a great credit history, the problems resulting from actions taken in identity theft cases can take months or even years, to clear up. The threat of identity theft is very real, but a few simple precautions can help you avoid being a victim on your next vacation.
Before you go, give your wallet a good cleaning and remove any unnecessary credit cards and IDs. In the case that your wallet does get stolen, the minimum number of cards with sensitive data will be compromised.
Also whenever possible, leave expensive valuables such as jewelry and laptops at home. Consider getting travel insurance for any expensive items that you do bring with you.
Travel light and avoid wearing expensive jewelry or accessories.
Banks are always on the lookout for fraudulent charges and may freeze your card if they see unexpected charges from a foreign country. Notify your bank and credit card companies before you go so they can help monitor your card and avoid freezing your account when you make charges abroad.
You may also want to set up alerts on your cards, so you’ll be automatically notified when charges over a designated amount are applied your cards.That way, you can identify large fraudulent charges as quickly as possible.
Keep important valuables as close as possible. A money belt or neck wallet is the perfect way to carry valuables discreetly and hands-free. If you carry a bag or purse, keep at least one hand on it at all times – particularly in large crowds such as at public markets, buses, subways, and train stations. You’ll also want to make sure your wallet is RFID blocking (see next tip).
When you’re in a new place, it’s easy to become distracted looking at the sights or trying to find directions. Stay aware of your belongings to avoid being targeted. If you set your bag down, strap it to something if possible. This won’t be foolproof, but it may make theft difficult enough to make a thief look for an easier target.
Use a hands-free hidden wallet to conceal valuables.
All U.S. passports issued since 2006 contain RFID chips that can be scanned easily. Thieves equipped with inexpensive scanners can access your passport photograph, birthplace, birthdate, and more.
Your passport contains most of what a criminal would need to access or reset your bank accounts and other private accounts. Some U.S. state driver ID cards also have embedded RFID chips, adding to the risk.
Fortunately, lightweight RFID blocking materials prevent data from being scanned illegally. Always store your passport, license, and credit cards in RFID blocking wallets to keep your information safe.
Try not to carry all of your valuables in one place. Even if you use a money belt, you may want to keep a backup card and cash stored in the security box at your hotel. You’ll also want to make paper and electronic copies of your most important documents such as passports, rail passes, credit cards, flight itineraries, etc., in case they get stolen. A paper copy of your passport can speed up the process of getting a replacement from an American embassy if the original is lost or stolen.
Store backup cash and paper copies of documents in a different location than the originals. If a hotel does not have a safe, some people stash extra cash in obscure places like their toiletry bag or the inside of their shoe. Our anti-theft travel security belt with a hidden wallet pouch is another way to carry backup cash and documents.
Keep extra cash and backup documents stored separately.
Password protect your phone and any other electronic devices, and back everything up before you go. You may also want to install remote tracking on your phone, laptop, or tablet to track your device if it does get stolen. Some remote access features also let you lock down your device remotely or even wipe it clean in the case that it does stolen. Avoid public computers where you enter logins or access private information.
Apple’s iCloud service and the Android Device Manager app from Google can both help you to secure your phone remotely and recover a lost or stolen device. Windows 10 also has a free ‘Find My Device’ feature. Third party providers like the Prey Project also make security software that can help you to recover misplaced devices or to recover data from them.
Be as discreet as possible when you travel, to avoid catching the eye of any potential thieves. When you access your wallet, try not to flash around your cash and cards. This also applies to technology. Try to keep your cell phone and camera stored away as much as possible too.
Also avoid posting about large purchases on public social media accounts. Local thieves may be looking for their next victims by searching for locally geotagged posts. Similarly, avoid posting about your travels on social media unless your privacy settings restrict the public (and potential thieves) from seeing that you are out of town.
Keep a hand on all bags and belongings, and try to keep technology stored away when not in use.
Both debit and credit cards are susceptible to theft, but credit cards have more protection from fraudulent charges. In the U.S., your liability for a disputed credit card charge is a maximum of $50, if the dispute is reported within 60 days of your billing statement.
However, with debit cards, you only have two business days to report the dispute. Otherwise the liability cap jumps up to $500. This applies when you use your debit card as a credit card, too.
If you withdraw money using a debit card, select ATMs carefully. Thieves often place “skimmers” on ATMs to access the data when you insert your card. Try to use ATMs located at banks, preferably with security cameras and staff nearby.
Always pay with credit card or cash, rather than debit.
After you return home, be sure to check your online account transactions or paper statements a few times over the following weeks to make sure no mystery charges show up. And of course, report any suspicious charges and have the bank freeze your card right away if you see any fraudulent activity.
Don’t let the fear of theft prevent you from enjoying your trip. We’ve shared a few tips to travel smart, take precautious, and use common sense. Now it’s time to have fun and enjoy your travel adventures!
Zero Grid is a travel gear company committed to helping you enjoy traveling more. Protecting you from identity theft is just one more way that Zero Grid makes travel less stressful and more fun.
To the adventures ahead,
Team Zero Grid