Vacation is a time when we are at our most vulnerable. Our guard is down and we are relaxing away from the regular pressures and stress of our daily lives. Thieves are counting on this. While we are at our weakest they are likely to jump into action, hatching nefarious plans to part us from our credit cards and if we are not careful from our identity.
Always treat your social security number as if it is a state secret. Give it out to no one, I don’t care who they say they are. If you have a passport, this is the perfect form of ID to use everywhere.
What exactly is identity theft? It is when someone gets a hold of your personal information and uses it to set up new accounts in your name. You can have had several credit cards taken out in your name long before you are ever aware of it. The basic idea is to rack up thousands of dollars of charges in your name leaving you holding the bag. However, it goes way beyond just that, it may involve getting a drivers license in your name, obtaining a home loan or opening bank accounts in your name with the intent to defraud the bank. Your life and your credit can be left in shambles. Once they have set up a second identity, it becomes very hard to separate the legitimate from the illegal.
Credit card fraud is easier to define. It is using your credit card to purchase items or services. This is often done through mail order where they don’t have to see the card.
How can we protect ourselves while we are on vacation? Using common sense is your best defense. Never give anyone your credit card number on the phone unless you are the one who initiated the call. It is a common scam to call customers in hotels and tell them that there is a problem with the credit card number they gave the front desk. Never give them your number, offer to go down to the desk and straighten it out. If it is a legitimate call they will welcome this option, if not, hang up.
Always be vigilant. When you are entering your pin into an ATM, be sure that there is no way that anyone can see what your number is. Never write your pin down in an obvious place where it can be seen and copied and of course never give it to anyone. You should also make sure that your pin is not an obvious number like your birthday or the last four digits of your phone numbers. Criminals are very smart and they always look at the obvious first.
Carry your credit cards in a safe place. Don’t advertise where you keep them to the whole world. For men it is a better idea to leave your wallet in your front pants pocket or the inside pocket of your jacket then in your rear pants pocket.
Woman, don’t hang your purse over the arm of your chair at restaurants and never ever leave it unattended. Don’t go in to the water at the beach with your wallet or purse “hidden” under your towel or blanket on the beach.
Be very leery of using your credit card on a public computer. You don’t know who is administrating these computers and who will have access to your information. Don’t check your bank account on a public computer either. Do however check your credit report while on vacation, this way you will know if there have been any changes in your credit health.
Don’t leave your credit card receipts lying around on the nightstand of your hotel room. The same goes for your passport and your license, lock them away in the safe or carry them with you at all times. The same goes for your car, do not just lock your purse or wallet in the back seat or compartment, cards can be easily broken in to and recovering your personal information can be time consuming and frustrating. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster.
Vacation should be a time to enjoy life, to relax and get away. Just remember, if you don’t want to be a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft you need to guard your personal information every day, everywhere. Treat all your identification as if your life depended on it, as a matter of fact it does.