August 11th, 2016
How To Prevent Identity Theft on The Road
Did you know that thieves can now steal your credit card information by wirelessly scanning your credit cards through your clothing and wallet? This simple, 5-step guide will help you protect yourself.
These days, thieves don't just want your money or jewelry—they also want your credit card information, bank account number, Facebook log-in, email password, and social security number. Identity theft, unfortunately, now affects about 17.6 million people a year, according to the U.S. government's Bureau of Justice Statistics. Don't be the next victim. When you're traveling, take these five precautions to help keep identity thieves at bay.
1. Keep Your Valuables Safe
You want your most important documents to be easily accessible, but if you keep them in your pocket, you're asking for trouble. First off, they could fall out, especially if you're on the move. Second of all, a thief could easily reach into a pocket and grab something without you even noticing. Keep your driver's license, passport, and any debit or credit cards in a hidden pocket tucked into the waistband of your pants or neck wallet.
2. Use Built-in Security Shields on Devices
It's important that your devices are secure. Most smartphones have features such as thumbprint activation, "find my iPhone," and passwords that can help prevent a stolen device from being accessed by a thief. But those features will only help you if they are activated, so be sure to set up one of them before your trip. Also, if you're using public WiFi in a coffee shop or museum, those networks can be hacked into more easily, so don't open up your online Citibank or Chase account while you're on it.
3. Beware of Shoulder Surfers at ATMs
When using ATMs, take a look around you before you enter your PIN and make sure that nobody has a view of the keypad. This is one way that thieves clone cards in order to access bank accounts. It's also smart to store your bank’s phone number in the "notes" section of your phone before you leave for vacation. You can always Google it on the road, but in case you don't have WiFi at that particular moment, you can still call to immediately deactivate your card before any theft occurs.
4. Minimize Card Cloning by Using Cash
Card cloning is all too common. Once, when I was living abroad in the town of Antigua Guatemala in Guatemala, many people's bank accounts were being cleaned out. Their cards would be cloned in town, and then maxed out in other countries, such as Colombia and Venezuela. But there's a simple way to limit the risk of this happening. Instead of using your credit card everywhere you go, use one ATM to withdraw cash and then use that cash for daily transactions.
5. Keep Credit Cards in an RFID Blocking Wallet or Pocket
Believe it or not, with new technology, thieves can read your credit card information through your clothing—or even your wallet (without ever touching you). A few hundred dollars of equipment is all a thief needs to wirelessly scan your credit card number, its expiration date, and the CVV number. Moments later, he can make purchases with your money.
Luckily, there are products that can shield you from these types of scanners. Put your debit and credit cards in RFID blocker sleeves and then put them inside an RFID wallet or an RFID Travel Zip Organizer.
Now it's time for you to weigh in. What strategies help you fend off identity theft? Sound off in the comments.
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
10 Surprising Ways to Keep Your Bag Safe On the Go
Protect Yourself From Mosquitoes During Summer Travel
Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of “The Nomad’s Nomad”, a travelogue featuring a raccoon mauling, run-ins with Narco Traffickers, and kids playing the most dangerous game on earth. He has worked in various educational development projects over the past decade and is currently working to fund a recently opened education center in Guatemala through the year.