How to Avoid Identity Theft While Traveling: a Quick Guide to Staying Safe
Identity theft is a modern problem that requires modern solutions: when you are traveling, you need to take special care to ensure you remain safe. If you follow certain guidelines, which we’ve outlined here, you can feel more secure. The first thing you should consider when traveling is how secure your ID and credits cards really are: leaving valuables in your hotel room can be a mistake. You should consider locking your passport and other things you won’t be carrying every day in a hotel safe, close to the concierge.
When you are carrying around your credit card and other ID, you must be wary of theft. In Europe, it is very common to see robberies where people on bikes or motorcycles will quickly slice through the straps of a purse and grab the bag itself: they are generally gone before you have a chance to react. Once a thief has your credit card information and important identification, it becomes very easy for them to extend their crimes into true identity theft. Go to a travel store and buy a special, hidden pouch that is worn under you clothes, around you ankle or waist. These pouches make it much harder for a thief to rob you, and you will be able to walk around feeling safer. Magellans is a good store to check out that sells these pouches.
Be careful on the phone when you are abroad: there could be someone listening to every word you say, looking for key information about you that they will use to steal your identity. Never give credit card information out on the phone if you are in public, unless you are in a phone booth or some other private place where you can be sure no one is listening. You should be wary of throwing away receipts or any papers that have your personal information on them, as well. It is very easy for identity thieves to go through trash in public places and extract private information about you! Keep your personal details private at all times, and remember, you cannot be too careful. There are criminals who do nothing all day but obtain other people’s personal information in order to steal their identities: tourists are perfect victims and they must be doubly cautious.
ATMS can be dangerous places: You PIN is a very important piece of personal information, and thieves want to find out what it is. You must be extremely careful to shield your PIN from view while punching in the numbers at an ATM. Thieves have ingenious strategies for spying on ATM users and obtaining their numbers. They are able to watch you in ways you may not even have considered, using mirrors or camera phones. Just because no one is directly behind you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shield the keypad while you enter your number. Remember that they spend their lives stealing, and they are very clever. You can feel safer if you cover the keypad with something while you punch in the numbers underneath. As well, be wary of carrying around a cell phone or Blackberry, if you are the type that loses things. Many people have private information about their families and addresses in their phones, which can be easily found by thieves. Consider programming your phone or Blackberry to show to bare minimum of information you might need when you are traveling: if it does fall into the wrong hands, less harm will be done. Here is a link to some great “safe travel” tips from US Customs: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html