Traveling for the Holiday? Don’t Let Identity Theft Ruin Your Trip

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Matt DiLallo

Matt DiLallo.

Vacations are times to put all your worries behind you.
Unfortunately, scammers know all too well that travelers have
other things on their minds besides protecting themselves from
their schemes. That knowledge emboldens them to follow the latest
trend in crime: identity theft.

Vacation identity theft: Two ways to get cheated

Identity theft when you travel takes two main forms. First,
thieves can steal important items from you, like your passport or
your credit cards, while you’re traveling. According to a recent
survey from Experian, more than three-quarters of all travelers
take their driver’s licenses and credit or debit cards with them
on their trips, and keep them on themselves at all times. Not
only can pickpockets leave you in a bind far from home, but they
can also wreak havoc with your cards and personal information,
selling card numbers to other criminals for future use.

The other trap that travelers fall into is that thieves can
attack their homes while they’re away. Breaking into your home is
the most obvious crime that can occur, but some criminals are
more subtle by taking steps like intercepting your mail, and
looking for credit card or other financial statements that
contain personal information. Merely taking a credit card offer
can cause you a big hassle for weeks, or even months, after you
get home from your trip.

Source: Visa.

Why identity theft is a big deal

One reason why many people don’t pay as much attention to
identity theft as they should is that they believe that they’re
protected from its consequences. It’s true that, for credit
cards, U.S. law limits potential liability for identity theft and
fraud to $50. For debit cards, that $50 limit applies if you
report your card stolen within the first two days. Moreover, both
Visa

and
MasterCard

offer zero-liability policies that apply to many cardholders,
keeping them from having to pay even that $50 amount.

But even if you end up losing none of your own money, dealing
with identity theft takes extensive effort. The Experian survey
found that, among those who have been victims of identity theft
while traveling, more than half said that it had at least
somewhat of an impact on their entire travel experience,
distracting them from the true purpose of their vacation.
Moreover, resolving the fallout from identity theft is a major
undertaking, with more than half of those surveyed saying that
dealing with the theft took a week or longer. Fully 10% said it
took several
months

to sort through the damage that scammers did to their credit
ratings and financial lives.

Some basic to-dos to protect against identity theft

Modern technology has made it a lot easier to take steps to
prevent identity theft, or to minimize its effects when it does
happen. With online and mobile access to bank and credit card
accounts, you can see almost in real time when unauthorized
transactions hit your account. Many credit card companies
encourage their customers to inform them when they’re traveling,
so they can adjust their fraud-monitoring detection systems to
take these travels into account, but also to be on the lookout
for common travel-fraud problems.

But people make other common mistakes that can cause trouble.
Simply stopping your mail delivery can prevent scammers from
tapping a treasure hoard of personal information, but only 40% of
those surveyed do so. Social-media sites are a common way people
share their travel experiences, but they also give criminals
vital information about a person’s whereabouts that they can then
use to track movements, and plan their activities
accordingly.

The last thing you need while you’re traveling is to have a
con artist steal your identity. By taking just a few moments to
be vigilant about protecting yourself, you can help reduce the
odds that your next vacation will become an identity-theft
nightmare.

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Dan Caplinger

has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool
recommends MasterCard and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of
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