Nine Identity Tips for Safe Travel
There's nothing worse than waking up after an all-nighter to discover that you've not only lost your underwear, but also your identity. Even if you're the type to sip Mai Tais by the pool and be tucked in bed once the sun goes down, everyone is susceptible to identity theft.
According to a Feb. 2013 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity fraud incidents increased by more than one million in 2012, with victims losing an estimated $21 billion. The good news is that companies are responding quicker to identity theft reports and enhancing their own security measures; but wouldn't it be better to avoid this harrowing situation in the first place?
Your wallet is akin to a miniature directory of your identity. Think about it. Your driver´s license, credit card, debit card, medical insurance card and other numbers are all stored together. However, in the event of a lost wallet or stolen wallet, having all of this information in one place greatly increases your risk of identity theft. EDGE offers nine tips to remember this travel season to help safeguard against identity theft, and an action plan if you fall victim.
1. Keep a record.
If your wallet and everything in it are suddenly missing, you need to know what you've lost. In a personal notebook you keep in a secure place at home, write down all of the information from the front and back of your credit, debit, driver´s license, medical insurance and other important cards. Be sure to update the list as needed. This will help you make the appropriate calls following a theft.
2. Limit your cards.
What you don´t carry in your wallet is just as important as what you do carry. For preemptive protection, only carry what you need on a daily basis. If you have multiple credit cards, only carry the one you use most often. Don´t write PINs or passwords on the back of your credit or debit cards or on pieces of paper you keep in your wallet.
3. Protect your Social Security number (SSN).
Your SSN shouldn´t be on anything you regularly carry in your wallet. If any of your identification cards from a school, library or gym use your SSN as your member number, ask the organization for a randomly selected number and a new card. Be sure to shred the old one. Carry your actual Social Security card as infrequently as possible, because getting it replaced can be a hassle. If you need it to confirm your identity, be sure to return it to its safe storage place as soon as you can.
4. Make the calls.
As soon as you´re certain that your wallet or important cards are missing, immediately call the issuers of your credit, debit, medical and driver´s license cards. Notify them of the situation and ask for a new account or identification number. Verify that your old numbers are no longer active. Even if your wallet is returned, you can´t know for certain that someone hasn´t written down your card numbers to use at a later time.
5. File a police report.
If identity theft does result from a lost wallet or stolen wallet, a police report filed at the time of theft will establish credibility. Even if you are traveling, file a report with local law enforcement. Always ask for a copy of the report for your personal records. If you later need to contest fraudulent charges or activity on your accounts, you´ll already have the report on hand.
6. Contact the credit bureaus.
A thief may find enough information in your wallet to open new accounts or simply use your existing cards to commit fraud. By placing fraud alerts with the three national credit bureaus, you can help prevent new accounts from being opened in your name without your express permission.
7. Watch your account statements.
Checking for the signs of identity theft is essential in the months following a lost wallet or stolen wallet. Carefully review each account statement, including your explanation of benefits (EOB) letters from your medical insurer. Look for purchases, transactions or services you didn´t authorize or receive. If you suspect fraud, call the number on your statement immediately.
8. Review your credit reports.
With services such as ProtectMyID it's simple. Reviewing your monthly statements will only identify fraud on your existing accounts. To identify new accounts fraudulently opened in your name, be sure to review your credit reports regularly - especially in the months following a lost wallet or stolen wallet. A new account that you didn´t open and don´t control is a serious threat to your credit and identity.
9. Learn from the experience.
If you´ve already dealt with a lost wallet or stolen wallet, be sure you´re prepared to handle the same situation if it were to happen again. Consider signing up for identity theft protection that combines daily credit monitoring with advanced detection and support features.