The arrival of warmer weather probably has many of us dreaming of relaxing on the beach or enjoying some other type of sunny summer vacation. But nothing can make a warm vacation go cold quite like getting your identity stolen. So as you make your summer travel plans, consider these tips for protecting your privacy.
- Don’t broadcast your vacation. Always be cautious with the information you share on social networking and check-in sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. You wouldn’t put a sign on your front door saying “Away on Vacation,” so you shouldn’t do so electronically by publically broadcasting your travel plans on a social networking site.
- Contact your bank. Provide your bank with up-to-date contact information, including your cell phone number. If you are leaving the country, advise your bank of your plans so they won’t be alarmed when they see transactions taking place in another country and will be able to better assist you if you need help from overseas.
- Clean out your wallet and purse. Remove any unnecessary credit cards, your Social Security card and other unneeded documents that could compromise your identity if lost or stolen. Photocopy or make a list of the remaining contents and keep it in a secure and locked location. Leave your checkbook in a secure locked place at home. Use credit cards or traveler’s checks instead.
- Hold your mail and newspaper. Ask your post office or a trusted neighbor to hold your mail for you. Mail left in an unlocked mailbox is a goldmine for identity thieves. Mail and newspaper pile-up also send a signal to potential burglars that your house is vacant.
- Plan ahead if you’ll need cash. Don’t carry excessive amounts of cash, and be aware of people and crowds around you — pickpockets thrive in most major cities. It’s best to use ATMS found at banks or credit unions in well-lit areas. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious, including signs that someone has tampered with the ATM. Covering the PIN pad will make it difficult for criminals to capture your PIN visually or with a camera.
- Connect to the Internet with care. If you are bringing your laptop with you, be careful using Wi-Fi networks. Most Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured and unencrypted, so you will need to take additional steps to protect you privacy. If you are using cyber-cafés, hotel business centers or other public-access Internet facilities, be aware that keyloggers (software that can track you keystrokes) may be tracking you. Public-access facilities may use servers that aren’t encrypted. Therefore, you should avoid accessing any sensitive information from a public computer.
- Use the hotel room safe. Do not leave your wallet or any documents containing personal information in your hotel room unattended.
These tips are provided by Iowa State Bank in partnership with the Iowa Bankers Association. If you have specific questions about the use of credit, please contact your local banker at Iowa State Bank. Iowa State Bank is an Equal Opportunity Lender. Member FDIC.