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Monday, June 17, 2013

Taking your identity on vacation

Summer is here and the travel season is gearing up. Whether you’re goin’ down the ocean or staying in a five star European hotel identity theft and security should be on your mind. You want to enjoy your travel but have to keep your guard up. Sadly, unwinding and relaxing may make you vulnerable. Your habits about purse snatchers, pick pockets, and how you handle your money will stay with you on vacation. However, we tend to get complacent about unpacking everything and locking the room when we leave, thinking everything is secure. Remember that you are not the only one with access to your room. If someone doesn’t have a key, the digital locks can be easier to “pick” than mechanical locks.

Depending on how and where you travel you may have any combination of electronics, jewelry, cash, credit cards, and personal documents. Common thieves as well as identity thieves are looking for anything they can get their hands on. The trick is not making it easy. Although, even your best intentions can be thwarted by tenacious thieves and lack of security options.

During some recent travel I had the opportunity to stay at five different brands of midrange hotels. There was one common observation made in all five hotels-The room safes are disappearing. Research did not reveal any reason why hotels are removing room safes. The places I stayed were all new or fairly new builds. So, this appears to be a new trend. Maybe not as secure as the hotel safe, room safes do offer a higher level of security than leaving items in your luggage.

A friend reported staying at a nice, but off brand motel. They left the room and stored electronic devices in their suitcases, under clothes. Those suitcases were then put in a closet under other suitcases. After returning to the room they discovered that the electronics had been stolen. Thieves know we hide valuables in the room. Not only did they feel the victimization of the theft but also that someone had gone through their room and luggage.

Time and opportunity are part of any successful crime. If someone has access to your room, with a good idea that you’re gone for several hours, they can thoroughly go through your room and take anything they want. The more time a thief has the higher percentage they will be successful. Suffice it to say that nothing is totally secure. If someone wants in bad enough, they’ll get in.  

Travelers have to make themselves uninviting or bothersome targets. If a thief feels that it would take too much time and effort to attempt the theft or notes nothing valuable, they’ll move on.

Some simple things you can do to help make yourself less vulnerable to theft or identity theft.

  •        Don't carry all of your credit cards on you
  •    Notify CC companies of extended travel
  •    Make copies of licenses/passports. Leave a copy at home and take one with you
  •    Use hotel safes, don't leave documents or valuables in your roomUse bank ATM's, not independent machines
  •    Secure your smart phone against unwanted access
  •        Install an app that allows you to track/shut down/erase your phone, laptop, and tablet
  •       Think twice before using credit cards in unfamiliar businesses, use cash when you can.
  •        If you have to leave valuables in the room make it difficult as possible by hiding what you can and locking luggage.

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