Identity theft happens throughout the entire year, but since it’s a time when you deviate from your routine, summer travels can leave you vulnerable in more out-of-the-ordinary ways. Here are some top tips for keeping yourself and your family safe from identity theft while you travel.
Don’t post photos of your plane ticket or luggage tags
Publicly sharing travel plans is a general no-no, but did you know that posting a picture of your boarding pass or luggage tags to social media can leave your identity vulnerable?
Barcodes on boarding passes contain information like your full name, date of birth, and a passenger name record, or PNR. A PNR lives in airline reservation systems and includes several identifying pieces of information such as:
- Your name and birthdate
- Your passport number and details
- Car or hotel bookings made through the airline
- Your email address
- Telephone number
- The last four digits of your credit card as well as the name on the credit card
- Special service requests, as well as optional service instructions like upgrades, languages, and luggage
Access to this kind of information makes you an easy target for phishing scams as well as other types of fraud. All it takes is one malicious phishing email asking you to click a link, enter your password, and confirm your car reservations or vegetarian meal option, and suddenly you've given away way more than you intended.
Don’t go on autopilot
Since it’s likely you’ll get all kinds of travel-related notifications to your phone, remember to slow down before you click a link. The best practice is to check your reservations by logging in to your booking site, NOT by clicking a link through email.
The same goes for phone calls; complicated new schemes involve extracting personal information over the phone, so if someone calls you, never give them your information. Instead, say something like, “I don’t like to give personal information away on calls I didn’t initiate. Let me call you back on your publicly-listed business number.” If the call is legit, the worst that will happen is the agent might be a bit befuddled. Causing a stranger mild confusion is far preferable to inadvertently giving away sensitive information.
Keep your bank cards safe
When you’re traveling, especially abroad, exercise caution with ATMs. If you must use one, only use a machine in a bank; it’s your best chance of using a machine that hasn’t been tampered with. Keep your debit card somewhere safe and use your credit card for purchases. This way, if your credit card is stolen, thieves won’t have direct access to your bank account. And of course, don’t forget to alert your banks to your travel plans before you leave.
Be cautious on unknown wifi networks
Public wifi can be dicey, even if the network is password protected. Unless you’re on a network you trust (like a relative’s home wifi), it’s best to prepare before you leave in order to limit the number of times you have to sign in to online banking or other sensitive platforms from a hotel or coffee shop.
If going off the grid isn’t feasible (and let’s face it, it’s tough to do), we strongly recommend a VPN. Many mobile VPNs are available for $10 or less. Read our article about what you should consider when getting a VPN, and also check out PC Mag’s reviews of the best VPNs for iPhones and Androids.
Download before you go
If you or your kids need shows, movies, music, or audiobooks to keep you entertained on a long journey, download everything before you leave. This includes software and mobile app updates. This has the triple benefit of decreasing your time on unknown wifi networks, protecting you through up-to-date apps, and saving you data usage.
Don’t neglect the old-school precautions
Paper systems still exist, and piles of mail or newspapers scream “I’m out of town!” Don’t forget to hold your mail and newspaper, and secure your home by putting your lights on timers, turning off your water, and collecting outdoor spare keys.
InfoArmor has your back
If something does go wrong while you’re traveling and you’re a PrivacyArmor member, we should be your first call. Remember that we’re always monitoring for potentially fraudulent activity, and we’ll let you know as soon as we detect something. And as always, we're there 24/7 to resolve any issues that may arise.