Traveling and Credit: Tips to Protect Your Score

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Traveling is a passion for many, and unfortunately, the threat of credit card fraud and identity theft is higher for nomads. According to a survey from Experian’s ProtectMyID® division, 30 percent of travelers have been victims of identity theft or know someone who has. In 3 out of 10 cases, recovering lost funds can take more than a week. And money isn’t the only thing you risk. Credit damage and long-term identity theft can plunge your credit into the sub-prime or poor zone, raising your interest rates and closing financial doors in the process. Take the following steps before your next excursion. They will help you avoid the consequences of compromised credit.
1. Notify your bank. In addition to fraud statistics, Experian’s survey revealed that fewer than 50 percent of travelers notify their bank or credit card provider before embarking on a trip. While some lenders track the geographic location of customer spending, you can’t rely on yours to alert you to fraud right away. Protect yourself by notifying your lenders of where you are traveling and for how long. If any suspicious charges occur in other locations, they will be more likely to block them immediately.

2. Leave sensitive items at home. You need personal identification when you travel, but certain items don’t need to accompany you:

  •  Social Security Card. According to Experian’s survey, 27 percent of travelers bring their Social Security cards on trips, an unnecessary and dangerous move. Social Security fraud is perhaps the most treacherous form of identity theft. Exposing your number could result in years of financial and personal woes. Learn more here and keep your SSN safe at home or in a bank-housed safety deposit box.
  •  Birth certificate. Unless you are traveling on official business that requires it, your birth certificate doesn’t belong in your carry-on.
  •  Debit cards. In addition to better fraud protection, opting to use a credit card instead of a debit card is wise while traveling. Most lenders waive fraudulent charges immediately. However, funds lost with a stolen debt card could take 60 days or more to recover.

3. Store your IDs. Suppose you are vacationing with family in Cabo San Lucas. You brought your passport, driver’s license and a few credit cards on the trip. What should you do when it’s time to relax on the beach? You can’t take your IDs with you; they might get stolen. On the other hand, leaving them unattended in the hotel room seems unwise too. In a situation like this, opt for safety by using your hotel room safe or asking the concierge to store your valuables in a secure place while you are away.

4. Be wary of Wi-Fi. If you plan to surf the web at the airport and hotel, be sure you are using secure connections. Logging on to unfamiliar servers means exposing the contents of your phone or computer to hackers. While your device may seem secure, a skilled thief may prove otherwise.

5. Check your credit. Even if you follow all the rules, identity theft and credit fraud is still a risk. Check your credit and bank accounts after returning home to verify all charges. Order free copies of your credit reports from the major bureaus in the months following travel to ensure that no accounts have been opened in your name or with your SSN. The bottom line: It’s impossible to avoid risk, but there are ways to lessen it. Protect your credit and identity by adopting a proactive mindset.

Related Articles:

5 Tips For Using Credit Cards When Traveling Abroad

Smart Frugal Choices for Summer Travel

Understanding Identity Theft and Knowing The Proper Ways to Fix It

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