If you happen to be lucky enough to escape quarantine this year and take a trip for the holidays, keep in mind these handy tips before you go. It is important to protect yourself and your family from identity theft before, during, and after your trip. Here are some pointers for keeping your personal information safe from fraudulent activity:
- Book with credible companies. Check on a company’s legitimacy through the Better Business Bureaubefore handing over your credit card number. Also check to make sure they are still in business, as many companies are closing during this unprecedented year.
- Secure your home and mail. Set lights on timers, ask neighbors to bring in trash cans and gather newspapers. Stop your mail while you are gone (see tips below) and park your cars in the garage for safety. Lock away important financial documents, including check books, social security cards, extra credit cards, bills, and tax documents in a fireproof safe.
- It's easy to have your mail held at the post office and delivered upon your return, go to the US Postal Service website and create an account where you can easily log in and request hold dates, as well as the date you would like your mail delivered.
- Want to keep an eye on the mail you are receiving while traveling? Log in to the US Postal Service website to sign up for Informed Delivery to get an email preview of each days mail. It's also a great way to monitor the mail you are receiving on a daily basis (when you aren't traveling) to know if something is taken from your mailbox.
- Concerned about package deliveries while you are gone? UPS My Choice gives you the option to sign up for text notifications for their deliveries. You will receive real time notifications when they drop packages on your porch and an alert notifying you before they are delivered as well. (Note: If you haven't signed up for notifications and you receive them, do not click on the link as it may be a scam). Additional package notifications are available via FedEx Delivery Managerto receive the same type of service notifications.
- The Amazon app allows custom notifications of package deliveries by clicking on 1) the three bars in the bottom right corner of the app, 2) settings, 3) notifications, 4) your shipments and 5) turn on shipment notifications.
- Protect your personal information. Freeze your credit to block a thief from opening a new line of credit with your information. Secure your laptop (whether you bring it with you or leave it at home) by making sure it’s password protected and up to date with the necessary internet security software.
- Pack wisely. Cash is safest, however be sure to not pack all cash in one place. Bring an envelope to contain all your receipts, just in case you need to dispute a charge when you return home. Make two copies of your passport, driver’s license, and credit card; put one copy in the fireproof safe at home in case of theft so you can contact creditors upon your return home and bring the other copy with you in a separate place (for instance don't carry them in your purse with your originals). Never check important documents in your luggage.
- Be careful. Never leave your laptop in your hotel room unattended. If you access public computers, never log into personal accounts while on them, and always erase your history. ATMs in sketchy cities are just that…sketchy. For extra cash, research the nearest bank locations from your hotel. Do not advertise your travel plans on social media sites or you can become an easy target for theft. Share your posts and pictures with the cyber world once you’ve returned home.
When your trip is over, continue to check your credit card statements for up to three months after to make sure no fraudulent charges pop up.
Best wishes for memorable (and safe) travels on your holiday vacation.