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Going on Vacation? Identity Thieves Want Your Info - Here's Help to Stay Safe

by Brian Kane

When someone uses another's personal and confidential information to commit fraudulent activity, that's identity theft. Some 11 million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year, according to McAfee, but unlike decades ago, thieves aren't simply stumbling upon lost credit cards or fishing through someone's trash for old bank statements. The former methods are still viable, but today's thieves are increasingly using sophisticated technology to get personal information. And the scary part is that this commonly happens as Americans are traveling on vacation.

Why are travelers more vulnerable to identity theft? Largely because they're forced to use unsecure Internet connections and carry personal documentation with them while they're vacationing, Independent Traveler reports. While you can never guarantee 100 percent safety from thieves, there are heightened precautions you can take on vacation to get protection from ID theft.

Set a Password On Your Phone

Travelers commonly leave items around hotels, in taxi cabs and elsewhere while they're on the go, one of which is a cell phone. A smartphone can reveal a wealth of personal information, if it falls into the wrong hands. Set a lock password to ensure that nobody has easy access to your bank account, apps or other documents that contain sensitive information.

Watch Out For Wi-Fi

If you're connecting to the Internet on the road, you'll likely be doing so over an unsecure network. Be careful what you do online, as hackers usually target such networks for information. Avoid logging into your bank and credit card accounts, email, etc. In fact, consider just going "off the grid" for your vacation, if you can, to avoid this risk altogether.

Watch Your Credit Cards

Notify your bank before you leave, as your own on-the-road purchases may flag your account. However, call your bank from time to time while you're on vacation, to go through recent transactions and make sure they're all yours. This enables you to find any fraudulent activity immediately.

Hold Your Mail

Back at home, arrange for the post office to hold your mail for the dates you'll be gone, or have a neighbor, friend or family member get your mail for you. Not only does a full mailbox let crooks know you're away, but if they were to open bank or credit card statements, they could easily steal your info.

Change PINs and Passwords

Here's another fact about many identity thieves—once they scam your info, they won't act right away. Many are patient and wait a few weeks to act, which is just about the time you're feeling good about things. Why is this noteworthy? Because you should change your PINs and passwords to any accounts you accessed while you were on vacation and delete the cookies from your browser. Hackers use encryption devices that decipher passwords to sensitive accounts. If you change the password from a secure Wi-Fi location, they're out of luck if they fail to strike immediately.

Brian Kane Brian is a computer science geek who loves to write about new programs that are compatible with Linux machines.

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