How to Protect Your Identity When You Travel
It’s easy to forget how important everyday items such as passports and driver’s licenses are
…until we lose them. And if it happens on a trip, their importance becomes apparent way too fast. All of a sudden the simple act of getting home becomes more complicated, not to mention the fear of what someone might be doing with our sensitive information if they’ve found or stolen these personal identifiers.
That’s why it’s so important to keep close tabs of your personal information and documents when you travel! It doesn’t take much to protect yourself, but not doing it can spell disaster. Whether your next trip is your 1st or 50th, follow these precautions before you go.
Keeping Your Personal Documents Safe
The easiest way to protect your identity when you travel is to keep a close tab on your personal documents. That means things like your official ID (such as a driver’s license), your passport, and anything with your name and social security number on it. If lost, these items can be very difficult to recover (especially when you’re away from home).
The first rule of safety is to leave sensitive information you don’t need at home. There’s no reason to travel with things like your bank and/or credit card statements or all of your credit cards. Take what you need and keep the rest locked away at home.
The second rule of safety is to keep important documents on you at all times. Never leave your passport in a hostel or hotel (even if it’s locked up). You can only control what’s in front of you – the last thing you’d want to find out after getting back from an excursion is that your documents had been stolen when you thought they were safe.
The third rule of safety is to carry your important documents in hidden pockets or pouches. No matter where you go, it’s hard not to stand out when you’re a traveler. The fact that you’ll likely dress differently than the locals, if you’re carrying a camera and/or backpack, and simply the places you go could give off the “traveler” or “tourist” vibe. What that means to you is you could be targeted for theft.
While you can’t always avoid theft, you can make it harder to find the documents thieves are hoping to get. Never place your money or important documents in your outer pockets. You can even buy special pouches that discreetly store these items under your clothing.
The fourth rule of safety is to keep a small stash of money in an outer pocket for the rare case of a mugging. The quickest way to get out of a dangerous situation like a mugging is to give them what they want and run. But that doesn’t mean you can’t trick them!
Keep a wallet with a little bit of cash in an outer pocket and the rest in a hidden inner pocket. That way, if you’re mugged or pickpocketed, you’ll only lose the amount of money you already decided you can live without. And, more importantly, your personal identification will stay in your hands, not the thief’s.
The fifth rule of safety is to give someone you trust copies of your passport or ID, just in case. Anything can happen, even with all this preparation. Give yourself an extra layer of protection by leaving copies of your ID with a trusted friend or family member before you go away. Then make sure you have a way to reach each other in case of an emergency.
*If you want to be extra-nice, leave your friend enough cash to send the documents via FedEx before you go.
Keeping Your Personal Digital Information Safe
These days, it seems more likely to have digital information stolen than personal objects. But if you’re as careful with your digital information as you are with your documents, then you can travel worry-free.
The first rule of safety in protecting your digital information is to set strong passwords and change them once a month. Your passwords should include letters, numbers, and special characters; and they should be complex enough that they’re not “guessable.” Finally, never use the same password for more than one website.
This is a good tip for everyone, not just travelers! If you find it too frustrating to remember all of those different passwords, try one of these password managers instead.
The second rule of safety is to avoid using public WiFi for financial transactions. This may sound a bit archaic, but you can always call your bank instead. That way you can transfer money, check balances, or do whatever you need without compromising your personal information online.
The third rule of safety is to carry an RFID-blocking wallet or passport holder. An RFID chip is located in many credit cards and bank cards and can be used to swipe your information. Getting a wallet to block that chip can help.
The fourth rule of safety is to password protect your cell phone. You may be wondering what a cell phone has to do with your personal or financial information. The answer is, a lot.
If you have a smartphone, that means your cell phone is connected to your email accounts, purchases you may have made through apps, and maybe even your bank and/or credit card information if you use apps like Passbook. The best thing you can do is not connect your cell phone to public WiFi and always keep it password protected.
The fifth rule of safety is to be aware. Theft often happens in moments when we let our guards down. Taking our wallets out on public transportation, holding our credit cards in our hands while we stand in line to make a purchase, counting our money in public. These are all ways to become an easy target. If you simply keep your wallet and everything inside of it put away until the very moment you need it, you can prevent instances of theft.
Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Dangerous
All of this information isn’t meant to deter you from travel. It’s meant to help you protect yourself and travel with confidence! You can’t prevent everything, but the more safeguards you put in place, the better off you’ll be.
And remember: thieves don’t want to get caught, which means they’ll always go for the easiest target they can find. It just takes a few small steps to make sure that target isn’t you!