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How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft when On-The-Go

June 27, 2014

Summer is here and vacation season is upon us. Dealing with the misfortune of having personal information compromised while trying to enjoy your travels is the last thing you want to be concerned about. Take the proper precautions as you set out on your next vacation, and you will have peace of mind knowing that your personal information will be more secure.

  1. Prepare in advance.
    Ensure personal information is not left in your mailbox and easily accessible. A trustworthy neighbor or local relative can regularly check to ensure mail is moved to a secure location. If this is not an option, have the post office stop your mail for the time being. Once you return from your travels you can pick up the accumulated mail and resume the normal delivery status.
  2. Pack accordingly.
    As you prepare for a trip, take some time to clean out your wallet or purse. Do not carry anything unnecessary that, if taken, could compromise your identity. After determining what personal information is necessary to bring, make sure to pack it in a safe place, preferably easily accessible to you but not others. Boarding passes, hotel confirmations and vehicle rental contracts should also be kept in a secure location.
  3. Access information with caution.
    While away from home, you may want to check your account balances or make payments online. Be aware of where you are accessing this information. Check to make sure the internet connection is secure. Often times public WI-FI networks lack the level of data encryption that private networks have, therefore making them less secure. Gravitate toward using WI-FI networks that require a password in order to connect, which are often provided by hotels upon check-in. It is important to be aware of the settings on smart phones as well. Turn off the feature that allows the phone to automatically connect to a network so that you will be more in control.
  4. Use cash when possible.
    To prevent data breaches, it can be beneficial to opt for cash payments instead of swiping your credit or debit card at each tourist spot or restaurant. Securely manage your cash and keep it close to you while out. Remain subtle while handling cash in public places. In addition, try to withdraw your cash prior to traveling in order to avoid high ATM fees or risk having your PIN exposed while in public places. If you do plan on using your credit or debit card while away, inform your provider so that they are aware of the dates you will be gone and can better monitor suspicious activity. Upon returning from your trip, check your statements to make certain the transactions were accurate.
  5. Know your cards.
    RFID chips are becoming more commonly used in credit cards, debit cards, licenses and passports. These microchips carry information that, if accessed by the wrong people through hidden scanning devices, could put your identity at risk. Make sure you are aware of any RFID chips you may be transporting so that you can best conceal the information they link to. A variety of wallets are now available that have scanner blocking capabilities. Other methods of secure RFID chip transport include stacking cards with these chips together in your wallet to make scanning more difficult, using card shields or wrapping cards in aluminum foil.

Simple steps can be taken to protect your identity. Safety attentiveness and common sense are valuable assets when on the road. Educate yourself in advance to be aware of risks. Be cautious of your surroundings and stay smart with how you handle your personal information and the risk of having your identity stolen will be slim while on-the-go this summer.

Jim OostermanJim Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone at 781-665-2500, online at melrosebank.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/MelroseBank.


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