How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Fraud While on Vacation

CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH) — If you’re heading towards that sunny destination, keep an eye out for criminals.

“Criminals have discovered there are many avenues to steal people’s credit cards, to even engage in identity theft,” explained Howard Schwartz, the executive director of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. The thing is there are many precautions we can take to prevent that we don’t become one of their victims.”

It’s obvious to lock your windows and doors before your departure, but Schwartz says also make sure our second story windows are secured as well as any doors connecting your garage to your home.

“People don’t believe that people can break in through a garage door, and they can, so unless you lock the door between your garage and your home, you’ve essentially left the door partially open,” Schwartz said.

Another tip is to install light timers.

“Criminals will go for the lowest hanging fruit,” Schwartz explained. “If they think someone is home, they’ll just move on to another residence.”

A stuffed mailbox is also an indicator no one is home, so Schwartz recommends putting your mail on hold. Doing so will also help prevent identity theft.

“Unfortunately there are all sorts of things that are in our mailboxes that can be a problem for us,” Schwartz said.

For example, pre-approved credit offers can be easily snatched by a passerby and used maliciously.

The next tip: We love our social media but be weary of what you post.

“The first thing you should be doing is check your settings to make absolutely sure nobody except those you want to are seeing the photographs you’re posting,” Schwartz said.

When in doubt, skip the posts altogether.

Schwartz also says you should limit how many credit and identification cards you bring with you.

“Better Business Bureau recommends you carry one, maybe two credit cards, because if your wallet gets lifted or stolen or lost, then you’re going to have problems that are going to start before you leave and continue to the time you get home,” Schwartz explained.

And while on vacation, only withdraw cash from bank ATMs.

“If it’s a standalone ATM, there is a much greater chance that it may have a card skimmer on it that will take your personal information, or there might be people in the neighborhood who watch to see who goes to that ATM,” Schwartz said.

When making purchases, avoid using debit cards.

“Those ATM or debit cards will allow a thief to empty your bank account,” Schwartz said. “On the other hand, if you’re using a credit card, you’re protected.”

Lastly, when you arrive at the hotel – be sure to ask for their Wi-Fi network name, login and password.

“If you connect to the wrong Wi-Fi network, you could end up being connected to someone else’s computer, and they will burrow into your computer and have all of your personal information,” Schwartz explained.

There are also two scams Schwartz says travelers should beware of. They target guests staying at hotels. To learn what they are, watch the second video above.

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