Avoiding Summer Identity Theft: 5 Must-know Steps

With summer travel season in full swing, there's an increase in online traffic to book flights, hotels and activities. While planning trips can be exciting, travelers can sometimes forget to take the necessary and precautionary steps prior to departure in order to protect their identities. A recent survey commissioned by Experian found that 23% of American consumers know a victim of travel identity theft. As travelers are especially susceptible to identity theft, it's beneficial to take steps to protect yourself—before you even take off. Thankfully, a few simple precautions can provide invaluable protection and peace of mind.

  1. Book With Your Credit Card

    When booking your flights and accommodations, use your credit card instead of a debit or ATM card whenever possible. Credit card companies are better equipped to handle fraud, and they also report new accounts to the credit agencies, which makes handling and spotting any issues much more seamless. As an added bonus, many credit cards offer travel insurance to their card holders, which can protect from things like cancelled flights, delays and baggage issues.

  2. Alert Your Financial Institutions

    83% of consumers surveyed said they trust banks and credit card companies to catch fraudulent charges, so it's important when taking a trip to alert all financial institutions of your travel plans. Otherwise, since credit card companies are constantly on the lookout for fraudulent activity, they may mistake your purchases outside of your usual geographic area as fraud. Notifying your banks and credit card companies will help avoid your card being frozen while you travel while you travel so that you can make purchases far from home. Furthermore, alerting your card companies will help agents spot any activity that doesn't fit the parameters of your trip, and proactively allow you to catch any fraudulent charges.

  3. Make It Look Like You Never Left

    Don't tempt thieves by hinting signs of an empty home. Instead, take the time to freeze your newspaper and mail delivery so it's not obvious that you aren't home. In addition, set your lights on timers to make it look as if people are home in the evening. Finally, if you have a trusted neighbor, tell them about your vacation plans so they'll be able to identify any unusual behavior at your home. Holding your mail delivery with USPS or having a family member or your trusted neighbor grab it for you can also help keep things from piling up on longer trips.

  4. Leave Important Documents At Home

    When it comes to traveling, less is more. Leave anything you won't absolutely need during your travels at home, such as your social security card or unneeded credit cards. Thieves are resourceful and it does not take much of your personal information for them to gain access to your accounts or identity. Since 76% of consumers surveyed believe that having a wallet or purse stolen is a serious identity theft threat, having fewer items in your wallet in case anything is stolen can save you headaches, time and potential issues with your personal information falling in the wrong hands.

  5. Don't Overshare On Social Media

    As we all know, some people can overdo it when it comes to social media, and as a result, they make themselves more vulnerable to identity theft. When it comes to your upcoming vacation, as much as you may want to, don't post about it. Posting about your plans before or even posting photo updates along the way will only alert potential thieves that you are out of town, and that your home and accounts are more easily accessible. Do yourself a favor, and wait to brag about that trip until after you get home.

While traveling can certainly open people up to identity theft and fraud, taking precautions before you leave can lessen many of these risks. With 63% of travel identity theft victims reporting that their cases took more than a week to resolve, take some time to prepare your home and personal information for your trip. Not only will you better protected, you'll likely enjoy your trip that much more when you have one less thing to worry about.