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Thursday, June 11, 2020

How to Protect Your Identity While on Vacation

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
It’s that time of year again when the summer heat is on and all we Floridians dream of traveling to cooler climes, if even only for a week or so.  Before you book that trip and pack those bags, there are a few things you need to know if you don’t want to wind up making a criminal’s day by giving them easy access to your credit cards and other financial information.  Below are ten tips that can help you cover your assets whenever you travel near or far. 

Don’t Leave Home Without It

      1.      While the cat’s away the rats will play. -  Rule number one when it comes to protecting your valuables while away from home for an extended period is to refrain from broadcasting the news of your trip.  That means you refraining from posting your travel plans on your social nets before and during your vacation.  While you may wish to share the details of your upcoming trip and/or the highlights of your vacation with friends and family, doing so online is like leaving a sign that reads Thieves Welcome on your front door.  21st Century burglars no longer need to case neighborhoods looking for newspapers piling up in front of doors or overflowing mailboxes.  All they have to do is troll Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see who’s away from home.  (That doesn’t mean it isn’t also a good idea to suspend all mail and newspaper deliveries until you return from your trip.)

      2.      Secure all your sensitive documents before you walk out the door. – Before you leave home make sure you take all your sensitive documents and valuables to a safe place like a bank safe deposit box.  This way if thieves do break in while you’re away, they won’t get away with much. 

      3.      Cash-in or Cash-out? -  Another thing you need to be careful about using is your ATM card while on vacation.  Crafty thieves have been known to attach everything from card skimmers to video cameras designed to capture your pin number.  Even if the machine is clear of spurious electronic devices, that doesn’t mean you can’t wind up being mugged as soon as you complete making a withdrawal. To avoid that, make sure you only use ATMs in public places that are well lighted like shopping malls that contain a bank.  Bank ATMs are far more secure than private ATMs.

Image courtesy flickr
How much will free Wi-Fi cost you? – That depends on how often you use it.  Sophisticated hackers have been known to do everything from hacking Wi-Fi networks at hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, to creating their own ghost networks in those same locales.  Logging onto one of these is guaranteed to ruin your vacation as the cyberthieves steal your financial data and rifle through your contacts so they can crack all your friends and family’s devices.  Better to use your cellphone’s hotspot to surf the web than to give thieves the keys to the vault. Also make sure you avoid public computers since they’re the least secure devices on the planet.

      5.      Only carry one credit card - The more cards you carry with you, the more chances there are for fraud or theft.  When I travel, I only take a Visa since it’s the most widely honored type of credit card.  Not only is taking and using one card far more secure than carrying several, it’s also easier to check the transactions online daily to be sure that nobody else is using it without your authorization. 

      6.      Want to beat pickpockets at their own game? – Carry most of your cash along with your credit cards and driver’s license in your sock or your shoe.  This way if your pocket is picked, all the thief will come away with is a few bucks and you won’t spend the rest of the day filling out a police report while trying to cancel all your credit cards. I learned that trick years ago from a cop.  He told me that he’d never busted a thief who ordered a victim to take off their shoes and socks.

Image courtesy pxfuel
      7.      Bulletproof your smartphone – Like it or not, smartphones are neither smart nor are they phones.  They’re handheld personal computers that contain a wealth of personal and financial information.  Even worse is the sad fact that many smartphone users have little or no security on their handheld devices.  This can come to cost them big should their smartphones be hacked or stolen.  Make sure you add security that prevents both these things from happening to you.  Even better would be to delete banking apps and other apps that store financial information before you leave town.  You can always reinstall them when you return home.

      8.      Refrain from leaving sensitive documents and devices in your hotel room or car while on vacation. – It’s all too easy for a thief or a housekeeper to steal or copy data in seconds flat.  You on the other hand will then be forced to take days, weeks or months to get your house back in order.

      9.      When you get home, change your passwords and PINs. – This way if any of your devices was compromised, you’ll have the opportunity to pull the rug out from under cyberthieves before they use or sell your data.

      10.  Review your bank account and credit card activity as soon as you return home. – This will give you a chance to see if any nefarious activity occurred on your accounts while you were away, in which case you can freeze them and inform the authorities.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. Nothing sucks worse than being ripped off while on vacation.

  2. Vacations use to be easy, now you have to watch out for dangers like cyber thieves!


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