The holidays are upon us! This year, nearly 45 million people will travel by air between December 17th and January 4th. That's an average of 2.4 million people per day for whom the warm joy and cozy cheer of the season will be preceded by long lines at the airport and crowded plane rides.
Before you swap those gifts, remember that travelers are frequently the victims of malicious identity crimes—so take a few moments to protect yourself. Below, the Center for Identity outlines tips and easy actions to help keep your identity safe during your holiday adventures.
Only pack the necessities for your trip. Leave the rest at home! Remove your Social Security card, bank statements, medical documents, and checkbook. This helps limit the number of items that would need to be replaced if your wallet goes missing, is stolen, or accidentally gets left in the rental car. It also helps reduce the amount of personally identifying information on your person.
Keep your technology with you.
Don't slip your iPad into your checked luggage. Carry your devices with you on the plane to keep thieves from stealing your technology...and your personal information.
Avoid oversharing on social media.
Avoid checking in, posting photos, and announcing your location while away. Criminals will take the opportunity to steal your mail and even break into your home. Consider waiting to post photos until after you return from your vacation.
Use a safe.
While traveling, store your valuables and important documents, such as passports and boarding passes, in your hotel's safe. While a hotel safe is not the most ideal location for securing documents, it is safer than keeping them on your person. Never leave items unsecured in your hotel room!
Hold the mail.
Before leaving home, request a hold on your postal deliveries, or ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail.
Check your bank statements.
Keep a close eye on your financial accounts and be sure to report any suspicious activity. While on the road, the best time to check is at a family member or trusted friend's home. You may also check over your 3G or 4G cell phone service.
Only use bank ATMs.
Card skimmers and fraudulent ATMs are easy ways for criminals to prey upon travelers. While bank ATMs can still be compromised, thieves are less likely to target them. Avoid using ATMs at gas stations, convenience stores, hotels, and other public places.
Be mindful of your connections.
Free, public Wi-Fi is often offered at hotels, cafés, restaurants, and shopping centers. Accessing these unprotected Wi-Fi "hotspots" can expose personally identifying information, such as passwords and logins. Avoid accessing your bank accounts, work email, and other secure accounts, unless the websites you visit begin with "https" instead of "http."
Be aware of your surroundings.
Be vigilant about your belongings and technology while traveling—tourists are often easy targets for criminals. Keep a close eye on your wallets, purses, and other luggage.
After a trip, remain vigilant.
Check your accounts for any strange or suspicious activity. Update your passwords and PIN numbers. Read through all of your mail, and make a note if any expected mail is missing. Report any errors immediately.
Adopting these habits will help keep your identity safe during the holiday season. Safe travels and season's greetings!