Press "Enter" to skip to content

Vacationing poses identity theft dangers

Vacation was great! You arrive home refreshed until you discover that someone charged hundreds of dollars using your credit card number.

You’ve been the victim of identity theft.

“Identity theft and identity fraud,” says Eileen Foster, Vice President for Fraud Prevention and Investigation at First Bank, “refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data to commit fraud or deception typically for economic gain. In this case, someone else may be living it up in a hotel room while you’re looking at a lot of work getting back what was stolen.”

But there are ways to minimize your susceptibility.

Prior to vactioning:

• Contact your bank when you have confirmed your vacation plans. Most banks monitor suspicious activity (including geographic shifts in cardholder usage) and may choose to temporarily restrict the card for your protection until the activity can be validated. By informing your bank up front, you can prevent unnecessary inconveniences while vacationing.

• Make a list of debit card, credit card, and bank account numbers as well as the associated customer service telephone numbers (typically located on the back of the card). Keep this list in a safe place so that you can use it to contact the necessary banks to prevent any potential fraud in case you lose your wallet or purse.

While you are vacationing:

• Never leave your Personal Identification Number (PIN) anywhere but in your memory. Do not write it down where it could be detected. Visit your bank to determine if they will allow you to change your PIN to something easily remembered, but it is a good idea never to use the last four digits of your social security number, date of birth, address, or other numbers that could easily be discovered by identity thieves.

• When vacationing, be aware if a merchant takes your card somewhere out of your sight for an extended period of time. Most merchants will process transactions within your view. You might call your financial institution to warn of possible violations against your account.

• Do not leave keys, debit/credit cards, checks, receipts or other sensitive documents in your hotel room. Many hotels provide a safe or other type of secure location for safekeeping your documents until you need them or check out.

• Always keep those receipts for credit card purchases or withdrawals. Never throw them in a public trash container where someone will eventually find them.

• Never give out your debit or credit card numbers over the telephone unless you have a trusted business relationship with the person or company. When vacationing, be mindful of schemes that ask for your card number (i.e., “To enter this sweepstakes, give us your card number”).

• Carry only cards necessary for the trip. It is often wise to carry two cards in case one is lost on vacation or inactivated. Prior to your trip, cancel any cards that you do not use or secure them in a safe place while you are away.

• Have a trusted neighbor or family member retrieve your mail to prevent identity thieves from obtaining credit card statements, bank statements, or credit card offers that could be used inappropriately.

When you return from vacation:

• Upon returning home, contact your bank and credit card companies to review recent activity on your account. If anything looks suspicious or unfamiliar, tell the bank right away.

• Destroy any unnecessary documents or receipts to prevent someone from finding and stealing any sensitive information.

“Your fingerprints are yours. They cannot be given to anyone else to use,” Foster points out. “But your personal identity data Social Security Number, bank account and credit card numbers, even your telephone calling card number can fall into the wrong hands and the loss can be significant.”