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Stay safe when traveling

Stay safe when traveling

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Before Traveling:

  • Checks. Leave checkbooks and checks at home, in a locked safe.  Use cash, traveler’s checks, or credit cards for purchases. Chances are that you will not be writing checks. Leave these and any extra debit cards or credit cards that you will not be using at home.
  • Leave bills at home. Business travelers often take advantage of quiet evenings in hotels to catch up with bookkeeping and paying bills. Unfortunately, many people have access to your room while you are at meetings and victims have reported that account information and check information has been stolen this way.
  • Wallets & Purse. Don’t take anything in your purse or wallet that is not absolutely necessary. Leave all cards with Social Security Numbers on them at home. If necessary, make a photocopy of a health card, cut off the last 4 numbers of the Social Security Number from the photocopy, and carry that with you. Make sure that you have an emergency phone number (contact person) for emergency medical personnel to use. 
  • Put Things On Hold. Put your mail on “postal hold” stating that for a period of time you wish to have your mail held at the post office. We prefer that term rather than “vacation hold” so that postal clerks will not know that you will be gone. Learn more at:
  • Make your home look lived-in. Arrange for friends or family you trust to pick up newspapers, mail, and advertisement flyers in order to avoid drawing attention to your home. This will reduce the risk of break-ins which may result in the loss of valuables, including your identity.  Nothing says “we’re out of town” more than a pile of newspapers. Don’t forget to stop delivery until you return. Also stop any other automatic deliveries, such as bottled water.
  • Neighbors, relatives, and house-sitters. If you have someone that is going to check the house and has a key to your house, then lock up any documents with account numbers or Social Security Numbers.
  • Register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: Visit to enroll in STEP, which provides comprehensive traveler information, including travel alerts and restrictions; information on visas or vaccinations; crime, stability, and road conditions; laws of the country you’re visiting; and consular contact information.
  • Scan important travel documents and store them in a secure online repository. In the event that your information is lost or stolen, using an online repository allows you to easily access copies of your passport, driver's license, visa, and any other vital identification from anywhere in the world. Remember to do this for every person traveling with you, including children.
  • Leave your debit card at home. Make credit cards, not ATM cards, your card of choice.
  • Minimize the number of credit cards in a wallet. No more than two (2).
  • Place all the removed items above into a locked safe.
  • Pay bills before you go out of town.
  • Stop delivery of newspapers or any other items you may normally have delivered (water, automatically scheduled deliveries of products, etc).
  • Make copies of your itinerary, passport data page, visas, and driver’s license to leave with a designated emergency contact.
  • Notify a neighbor to watch your house. Let them know you are not moving.
  • Go through your wallet, purse, and/or briefcase and remove any of the following items prior to travel:
  1. Social Security card
  2. Checkbook & deposit slips
  3. Birth certificate
  4. Credit card receipts
  5. Bills
  6. Extra Credit Cards
  7. Library card

During Travel:

  • Don't leave important documents in your car. Very often people leave their important documents in the car thinking that the documents are safe. Your documents will be as safe as your car might be.
  • ATM Machines. Consider restricting the use of your ATM card to securely located Automated Teller Machines. Fake ATM machines are known to have been placed in high-traffic tourist areas. Debit cards also provide thieves with a direct pipeline to your bank accounts. When used with a PIN, you need not sign for the purchase. When used for a "credit" purchase with a signature, no confirming PIN is needed.
    • Watch Out for Skimming Technology.  Thieves can tamper with point-of-sale machines through an illegal practice called skimming. If the machine at a gas station or ATM looks suspicious, let an employee know and seek an alternative place to withdraw money.  When typing in your PIN, cover the screen with your other hand to keep someone from looking over your shoulder and stealing the digits.
  • Use credit cards while traveling. Only credit cards are protected by federal law as to the amount of money that you are responsible for if lost or stolen, and most companies now extend a zero liability policy to customers. 
  • Never leave your personal documents unsecured in the hotel rooms. This rule specifically applies to global travel security where certain passports may be valuable. Lock up all valuables in room safes or hotel safes while you are out of your room. That includes laptops, PDAs, jewelry, passports, and other documents that contain personal identifying information or that would be of interest to a thief. A suitcase is not a secure way to lock up information.
  • Beware of pickpockets. While pickpocketing has been on the decline in the U.S. for the past fifty years or so, it’s still a major problem in Europe.  Pickpockets often work in groups, are often children, and are typically well-dressed.  Be extra vigilant around tourist attractions, public transportation, restaurants, bars, and hotel lobbies.
  • Carry valuables safely. Your valuables and identification are a mere swipe away from a purse snatcher or pickpocket. Money belts kept under clothing are the safest. For stowing cash, credit cards, and identification, inside pockets and sturdy shoulder bags with straps across the chest are much better than handbags, fanny packs, or outside pockets.  Vacation travelers should use fanny packs or travel pouches that are worn inside their shirts to carry important documents. Business travelers should be aware that pickpockets are also looking for laptops and PDAs that are temporarily out of your control- at airports, in lobbies, and in dining areas.
  • Shoulder surfers. Besides pickpockets, identity thieves take advantage of people via shoulder surfing. "Shoulder Surfing" used to only apply to those who looked "over your shoulder" to see the information. With the common use of cell phones, it is important to remember that you are in a public venue and may talk about things that a thief can use.
  • Back-up material: Carry photocopies of all travel documents including plane tickets, hotel reservations, and passports. Keep these in a separate location from the originals.
  • Public restrooms. Ladies, do not hang your purse from a hook on the door. It is too easy for someone to reach over the top of the door and take it before you have time to react. The best place to store your purse while in the restroom is beside you or hung around your body.
  • Don't place valuable information on computers. unless you secure that computer like you secure your ID card or driver's license. More often than not, sensitive information is placed on laptops which are carried around to public areas like restaurants, pools, and bars without any regard for travel security risks. Individuals and businesses need to understand the identity theft risks associated with taking laptops containing sensitive information with them when they travel and develop policies and procedures to properly address the security of their information.
  • Take copies. Carry photocopies instead of the originals when necessary and possible. For example, copies of passports are not acceptable forms of identification; however, copies of birth certificates may be in some cases when presented with other original documents. So, it is not necessary to carry all originals all the time.
  • Beware of your surroundings. when using your secret codes to access cash at ATMs, use your debit card at stores where you have to enter a PIN, access your personal or business laptop computer in public areas like airports, send e-mails, or access your voicemails, beware of your surroundings and the eyes looking over your shoulders. Cover your hand when typing the secret code. Don't be embarrassed as we all might get sometimes when we try hard to be secretive. It's better to be safe than sorry. After all, you are your own true travel security agent. Read about access code exposure.
  • Be prepared to deal with a lost or stolen passport case. know what to do immediately in case of a stolen or lost passport during your trips or at home to prevent identity theft. Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Assuming you may lose your passport or other travel and personal information during a trip, be prepared and have a plan 'B' to notify and get a passport replacement in order to move on with your travel arrangements. Copies of your birth certificate and passport or phone numbers of your credit card companies come in very handy when you need them, especially, if you're out of town and lose your credit card or passport. So, be prepared and have a contingency plan for any personal document loss, as part of your overall travel security plans.
  • Don't check in your personal documentation. never place your personal and travel documents in the luggage which you intend to check in at the airport. Once you do that, you have just lost control over the security of your personal documents.
  • Avoid identity theft when you visit the gym. If you think your personal items are safe at your favorite gym and health club while you work out, think again. Protect your personal belongings while you work out at the gym.
  • Watch your belongings on the plane. To ensure travel security by air, always place your personal belongings in an overhead compartment on the opposite side of the aisle you are seating. This way, you can detect any unauthorized search and theft of your personal items during the flight. In any full flight, people reorganize the overhead compartments to make room for their own items and someone may go through your items or even steal your items while pretending to be looking for extra space.
  • Travel with your items in the security chain. When you go through the travel security checks at the airports, make sure your items don't travel in the x-ray machine faster than you go through your body scan as they may be vulnerable to theft at the end of the scan process if you encounter delays in your own body scan process. Make sure you send your family members through the scans first and submit your valuable personal items right when you're ready to go through the scans yourself.
  • Take caution with public computers and Wi-Fi. If possible, avoid using public computers to access anything sensitive, such as conducting online banking, making purchases, or accessing email accounts. These computers could potentially have malware that is designed to capture the information you have entered. Avoid these same activities when using a public Wi-Fi connection as the information can easily be captured by criminals on the same connection. Make sure to use an encrypted Internet connection whenever you go online.
  • Be aware of social media updates. We all like to share photos online with our family and friends as we are traveling. However, when you tell people where you are, you are also telling them where you are not – at home.

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