As a woman who travels solo to do research, I’ve learned that there’s more to traveling safely than just being aware of my surroundings and staying away from sketchy hotels.
Keeping one step ahead of identity thieves is just as important as keeping yourself physically safe. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a companion—or even with a group—these tips should help make your trip hassle-free and keep your personal identity safe while you’re on the road.
Many of these suggestions are common sense. Some of them are so simple that you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing them all along. None of them take much time or effort, but all of them will save you the financial cost and personal pain of having your identity stolen.
BEFORE YOU GO
Notify Credit Card Companies: I learned the hard way that you should notify your credit card company or financial provider that you will be traveling (so they don’t block your card as a security measure when you try to pay the bill at an out-of-town restaurant). Most of them have an automatic phone system that makes it as simple as answering a few yes and no questions. As technology improves, the bigger credit card companies already know you’re traveling through your purchase of airline tickets or booking of a hotel or rental car.
Check Your Latest Credit Card Bill: Along the same lines, it’s good to check your credit card bill before you go on a trip. That way you’ll be able to easily spot any new charges that look suspicious upon your return.
Big Tip: Don’t wait until you’re in a hotel room or an airport to pay your bills or check your bank account! To avoid exposing sensitive information online when traveling, do your bill paying and checkbook reconciliation before you go.
Clean Out Your Purse. I always clean out my purse for two reasons. One, I do a lot of walking when I’m traveling and I want it to be as light as possible. Secondly, my wallet has a lot of extra things in it like gift cards, store cards, etc. that are just unnecessary. I only take what I absolutely need, which is usually two credit cards and some cash. (I recommend taking at least two credit cards, since one could be turned down and then you have a backup. I never had a credit card refused in my life until I was in Las Vegas—and that was because I didn’t call ahead of time and tell them I was traveling).
Tell The Post Office: Hold your mail and use informed delivery. You can set up informed delivery through the U.S. Postal Service to receive an email listing of the scanned mail that was delivered. When you return, you can identify any missing items. Holding your mail lessens the likelihood that you’ll have any problems.
DURING YOUR TRIP
Make Copies: I always worry about what could happen—not what is likely to happen—so I’m all about protecting and duplicating everything I can. Lots of people store their valuables in a hotel safe, but you should be just as careful with your traveling documents—especially your passport. For added security, take a picture of passports and credit cards in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
Protect Your Boarding Pass: Use mobile passes when you can, but if you print a paper ticket for backup (raising my hand), make sure you rip it into pieces when discarding. Boarding passes reveal full names and travel destinations.
Avoid Remote ATMS: Remote ATMs are more likely to have skimmers attached or cameras that can capture your password data. Also, do you really want to withdraw money from that ATM in the dark, empty-looking parking garage?
Social Media…Just No: Don’t share too much while you’re traveling. You can tell everyone about your trip on Facebook and Instagram when you get back.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi: This is a hard (if not impossible) one. At the very least, don’t use your computer or phone for anything that could reveal personal or financial data.
WHEN YOU RETURN
Change Your Passwords: I’m trying to make this a habit because it’s probably the most important thing to protect your identity. Even if you’re not traveling it’s a good idea to change your passwords every few months.
Do A Checkup: Don’t wait too long to check your bank and credit card accounts for anything that looks suspicious. Do it while any purchases from the trip are still fresh in your mind.
I enjoy traveling alone because I can explore at my own pace and change my schedule if necessary. But the freedom to do what I want doesn’t mean I can let my guard down when it comes to protecting my personal identity.
If you do a lot of traveling or are traveling abroad, it might be worth the peace of mind to sign up for one of the many of the companies that provide identity protection services or credit monitoring. Also, check with your credit card company. Many of them offer protection as part of their plan.
Taking the necessary steps to safeguard my identity is slowly becoming second nature to me when I travel. I hope these tips help you travel safely as well. Happy Travels!
Jessica James is an award-winning author who shares her passions for history and travel by writing about little-known destinations and historical sites on her blog www.pastlanetravels.com.