With summer vacation right around the corner, you're probably busy planning itineraries, shopping for new bathing suits and finishing work projects so you can truly relax during your break. But before you completely check out, take a few minutes to review a few financial safeguards that could save you a ton of grief and money -- and protect your identity.
Credit and debit cards. If you're planning to travel -- especially overseas -- follow these precautions:
Even when not traveling, if you receive a phone message or email purporting to be from your card issuer, don't automatically click on enclosed links or call back on the number provided. That's a common ploy to steal personal information. Instead, call the number on your card or the company's website -- if the message was legitimate, you'll be connected with the proper department.
Guard your travel plans. Resist the temptation to share your vacation itinerary on social networking sites or in outgoing phone or email messages. It can alert criminals that you're away from home or work, making those sites vulnerable to theft or vandalism. Even friends who know better might inadvertently forward an email or Facebook posting that contains critical dates and destinations.
Also make sure your kids understand that this information is off limits until you're safely home. Chances are their online social networks include many people they don't know personally and who don't need to know your family's business.
Streamline your wallet. Don't carry too much personal information. You'll of course need identification, like a driver's license or passport, but don't bring your Social Security card or other highly sensitive papers. But do carry your health and car insurance identification. Also, photocopy, scan or make a list of your wallet's contents and keep it in a secure location, such as a hotel safe; and leave a copy with someone at home you can call should your wallet be stolen.
Electronic precautions. Whenever logging onto the Internet at a Wi-Fi hotspot, hotel business center or other public facility whose server may not be encrypted, be extra cautious before conducting online banking or other password-protected transactions. And, it probably goes without saying, but your computer and cellphone should always be password protected in case of theft.
Safeguard your home. If no one will be housesitting in your absence:
Here are a few additional travel safety tips:
For additional tips on preventing identity theft while traveling, visit the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's Planning a Summer Vacation? Be a Privacy-Smart Traveler, the FBI's Be Crime Smart page and the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft, Privacy and Security page.
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a legal, tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to you and about your individual financial situation.
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