Tips to protect your identity while traveling

Recovering from identity theft when you’re at home is hard enough. But when you’re traveling, dealing with lost documents, fraudulent accounts and endless customer service calls can be frustrating and even ruin your vacation. Follow these suggestions for keeping your personal information and money safe.

Only take and carry what you need

You might bring your driver’s license or identification card, travel credit cards, insurance cards and potentially your passport on vacation. However, leave your Social Security card, and any other documents that have personal information, at home.

Once at your destination, be strategic about what to carry on you day-to-day. Having cash and a credit card handy might be convenient, but you can leave other items locked in your hotel’s safe or hidden in the room.

Increase your phone’s locking speed

Most people use some sort of password or a biometric scan to unlock their device. These are especially important while traveling.

You also might want to review your phone’s settings to adjust how long it takes for the phone to automatically lock (when the screen turns off). A shorter auto-lock time could be helpful in case your phone is stolen or misplaced.

Update your devices and be cautious on public Wi-Fi

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network can be risky, especially if you don’t know who set up the network in the first place. Updating all your devices can help ensure that they have the latest security patches in place. You can also enable HTTPS by default in your internet browsers, which will encrypt the information you send online, such as usernames and passwords.

Enable multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security measure that you can enable for your online accounts. In addition to your username and password, you’ll be prompted to use a second form of authentication, such as a code sent via text or email, or a biometric scan.

Enabling MFA can help keep identity thieves and other criminals from logging in to your accounts, even if they’re able to get ahold of your username and password.

Beware of shoulder surfers

It isn’t just the technical identity theft threats you need to worry about; someone might be able to steal your personal information by looking over your shoulder when you’re on your phone or laptop. They could even get your PIN when you enter it at an ATM or payment terminal.

To protect yourself from shoulder surfers, try to position your body or hand in a way that keeps others from seeing you input personal information. You could also buy and install a privacy screen on your laptop or mobile device, which can keep people who aren’t directly behind the device from seeing what’s on your screen.

Using unique passwords on all your accounts—a password manager can help you keep them all straight—could also deter a shoulder surfer who watches you enter the password for one account from using it to break into your others.

For more information on identity theft and fraud, see the following articles: