You might have not thought about it when you were planning your trip, but identity theft nowadays represents an ever-growing concern for travelers. Recent technology developments have perhaps simplified our lives, but they have also made us more exposed to identity theft. Here are few quick and easy tips to keep your identity safe and your mind at ease.
1. Use secure internet connections as much as possible
You’ll find it particularly tough to find internet accesses that are not public. When logging in to those, refrain from checking your bank account, work mailbox or any sensitive information you may think of. Whenever possible, use HTTPS urlss instead of HTTP: the S stands for “secure” and means that your data will be encrypted - i.e. it won't be read. Browser extensions such as HTTPS Everywhere can do this for you automatically.
You can also download a VPN, that will help you encrypt your data when using a public internet connection. I usually recommend Turbo VPN, which is one of the apps I use the most when I travel. On your laptop, you can download a free VPN very easily. I use the Chrome extension Betternet. The least you can do is deleting your cookies and browsing history when connected to a public Wifi provider.
2. Password-protect all of your devices
That may seem like a no-brainer, but adding a password or any other device-encryption method might really make a difference. Stealing a phone is a lot easier than unlocking it if you don't know the password: not every thief, or even the majority, is a multi-disciplined hacker as well. This basic tip may not prevent your phone from being taken away, but it might keep at least your data safe.
3. Install a device-tracking app on your laptop, smartphone and/or tablet
These objects are particularly exposed to thefts, and if you didn’t manage to prevent it from happening, you can at least track and maybe recover them. One I really like is Prey: it allows you to locate up to 3 devices for free and is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux PC. It’s a rather simple but effective one.
Others will also let you take a picture of the thieve or log into your device remotely. And in case you've found yourself in a similar situation, please note you're not the Rock in the Walking Tall remake - don't show up at your thief's location - do us a favor and see the local police instead.
4. Take a regular look to your banking statements
Obviously, the sooner you realize something is wrong and your personal info have been hacked - the better. Not only because you can stop it right away but also because authorities are all the more likely to catch the person responsible. But remember to do so only on a secure connection. Remember? HTTPS? Oh come on! Scroll up!
5. Regularly change your password and PIN code
In some cases, identity thieves wait several weeks, when you’re back home and not paying as much attention. A simple trick to prevent them from succeeding is to change your password and PIN code before leaving - it can be really annoying if you’re like me - forgetful and lazy.
6. Sort out your documents before leaving...
You might want to unpack documents you usually keep with you at all times, such as checkbook, medical information or bank statements. Do it also during your travel: when going to a concert or a crowded place where you can get distracted, leave all the documents you don’t really need somewhere safe.
7. ...but keep the essential ones with you at all times
Leaving sensitive documents unattended is the primary reason for identity theft. Don’t do that. Period.
Actually, you should even make digital copies of your important documents and password-protect them.
8. Be careful with ATMs
Identity thieves have become ingenious enough to invent card readers that they place on ATMs to access your card number and PIN code. Even though they can also be targeted, bank ATMs are usually more secure than random ones, so you should stick to them you need to make a withdrawal. And that picture suggesting covering the number pad when you're entering your PIN - do that.
9. When booking a hotel or hostel, check the reviews
It seems obvious again, but most identity thefts occur in the place where you’re staying for the night. Take a quick look at the reviews before booking your room, and don’t hesitate to inquire about the security measures: for instance, it’s always better if they provide access to safe or a locker, which can be locked with your own lock.
10. Follow-up when you get back
Trust me, I know how sad you may feel when you get back home. Nonetheless, you’d better do a complete checkup to make sure everything is in order: bank activity, documents, emails, medical insurance, bills… And if you want your mind to be at ease, do the same a few weeks after your return home: some establishments do not operate in real time, so the digital - or paper - trail might take longer to appear (like your bank statement for example). Some thieves are well aware of that and take advantage of it.
Yes, travel comes with certain risks, but don't freak out - people are not out to get you. Well, at least not all. Take some basic precautions and you'll be just fine.
Stay tuned for more useful travel information, and drop us a line if you have hacks of your own that we didn’t think of!
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