published Saturday, July 14th, 2012

ConsumerWatch: Protect your identity during vacation travel


by Ellen Phillips

I vaguely recall a column about how to protect our identity while on vacation. Can you refresh my memory? — Ted Travel

Dear Mr. Travel: I believe this was a column from summer 2010; however, let me revisit the topic with relevant updates, compliments of www.aarp.org.

• Do as I do and alert the credit card providers — the cards you're taking — of the dates gone. Not only does this help to stop fraudulent charges if the cards are used where you're not visiting, but also they won't be frozen when you're so far from your normal charging area.

• Stop the mail and newspapers. Obviously, you can ask a neighbor to pick these up and save them; however, it's so much more convenient simply to stop them from coming for that period of time. And please don't tell everyone that you're leaving, and definitely don't ...

• Post on social networking sites, too.

• Clean out your wallet/billfold. One or two credit cards are sufficient to take, as well as your license, insurance information, and passport (if traveling out of the country).

Be sure these important items are kept close to your body, preferably in a security purse, belt, buttoned pants pocket — not at the hip — or hidden money pouch. You shouldn't need to carry your checkbook at all.

• It wouldn't hurt to carry a "throw-away" wallet with a few dollars and an expired credit card. If you're approached by a robber, you can throw this down and run.

• Be careful of ATMs. Be sure to get money from bank lobbies. Not only are they less likely to be robbed because of camera surveillance and security guards, but also there's less chance of thieves attaching skimmers (those illegal devices that "skim" to steal your financial info) to the machines.

• Watch out for hotel computers. Never access any financial data on public computers or public Wi-Fi networks.

• Don't trust the front desk folks any further than you can throw them. With that said, I do stress that most are honest people. However, if you should receive a call asking again for your credit card info, it could be a trick. Hang up the phone and call the front desk yourself or, better yet, walk down there to see what's going on.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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