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Tips to Protect Your Identity This Summer

Sep 27, 2017, 10:51 AM

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We were flying to the Caribbean—no simple task from the West Coast. First we took the red eye to Miami. Then we had a five-hour layover, only to find out our connecting flight had been canceled when tropical storms moved in. While scrambling to find a new flight, I left my billfold in an airport waiting area. And when we decamped to a Miami hotel for the night, I left my phone in the taxi.

I was lucky. When I realized my billfold was missing, I ran back and found it right where I left it. And I was able to use the find-my-phone feature to alert the cabbie to its whereabouts in his backseat. He drove the phone back to me. Had I lost either—or both—identity theft could have soon followed.

I don’t think I’m alone in not thinking clearly when I’m out of my element, particularly after a red eye and when everything seems to be going wrong. But even if you’re a levelheaded, clear-eyed, always-on road warrior, things can happen that are out of your control.

With spring here and the end of the school year in sight, many of us are starting to make travel plans. We’ve rounded up some useful tips to help protect yourself—and your identity—as you hit the road.

Smart travel starts before you leave. At home, make sure to keep your most important documents in a safe place. Use a fireproof safe to protect your personal information and valuables, including your Social Security cards, birth certificates and marriage license.

Protect your smartphone and other devices with a passcode. Should your device get stolen or lost, a passcode will help protect you from theft, unwanted usage charges and misuse of your personal data.

Place a hold on your mail and newspapers while you’re gone. A stack of newspapers at your front door is a give-away that no one is home. And bank statements and credit card offers piling up in your mailbox can quickly become a treasure-trove of information to crooks. The U.S. Postal Service will hold your mail while you’re away and deliver it all at once or hold it for you to pick up when you return. Simply fill out this easy online form.

Be careful when using ATMs. Identity thieves have been known to modify ATMs by adding card skimmer devices to them. Sometimes you can spot these altered card readers by inspection. If parts look loose or not quite right, find another machine or use an ATM inside the bank.

Don’t get lazy when it’s time to walk out of your hotel room. Lock up your valuables in the hotel safe. Stow your passport, financial cards and IDs securely.

As it turns out, a LOT can go wrong when you’re on the road. But the more you think about it and plan ahead, the better off you’ll be. Oh, and don’t leave your billfold in an airport waiting area or your phone in a cab! You might not be as lucky as I was, and even if you are, you don’t need the grief from your travel companions. Trust me on this.

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Cory Warren is the blog editor of LifeLock UnLocked.