Traveling Safely To Avoid Identity Theft

When traveling we take extra care to secure our gear. Entering unknown worlds requires an extra measure of caution, causing us to keep cash, cards and travel documents out of sight. We pay special attention to where these things are at any given time and taking extra precautions keep them from being lost or stolen. But how much thought goes into protecting our identity on the road? It’s a topic worthy of a little thought and some action before traveling.

“Our phones are used more and more to organize our lives,” Nikki Junker, social media coordinator and victim advisor with the Identity Theft Resource Center told us in an email. As the use of smart phones increases, con artists are finding ways to access personal information. “Smart phone security is going to become even more important,” says Junker.

Protecting smart phones, and the information that is transmitted over them does not take all that much work or time, just a few security pointers.

Create a complex password. Your first line of defense is a strong password, one that combines letters, numbers and symbols. An 8-digit combination of letters and numbers, once the gold standard of passwords, is no longer good enough to foil identity and data thieves.

Seek backup/wiping services. iPhone and other brand users have this ability built in but it has to be turned on to work. Some brands require it to be loaded onto the phone. “Not having these services is one of the biggest mistakes smartphone users make,” says Junker. “They’re easy to obtain through the phone’s manufacturer or your wireless provider.”

Install security software. “Treat your smartphone like you would your home computer,” Junker says. Install security software that contains an antivirus, and be diligent about downloading updates as they’re available.

Take action. If your phone is missing, call your carrier as soon as possible to report that it’s been lost or stolen and to have the data wiped.

If you think you’re a victim of identity theft, Junker advises taking these three steps:

  • Place a 90-day fraud alert on credit reports
  • File a police report
  • File a fraud affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission

All of this is especially important for those who email copies of travel document, confirmations and identification to themselves and then store them on their smartphone.

Already have your phone password-protected? Think your password is secure?

Test the strength of your password here

[Flickr photo by dmott9]