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You've packed your bags, reserved your hotel and secured tickets to the big festival. You've printed out your boarding pass. You're ready for your big trip, right?
Not quite. Traveling is fun, but it can also result in identity theft while you're on the road. After all, you'll be giving your credit card or debit card information to waiters, cashiers and check-in personnel that you don't know. You'll also be in strange surroundings, which may have the impact of clouding your judgment.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent identity theft from ruining your vacation.
Before you leave
Taking the proper steps to protect your identity starts before you even leave your home. Forbes recently ran a feature story detailing the tasks you should complete to protect your identity before you hit the road. It starts by canceling your mail delivery until you return. You don't want potential identity thieves to notice that your mailbox at home is overflowing. They might take the opportunity to break into your home. Just as bad, these criminals might pluck credit-card offers from that stuffed mailbox, using them to take out accounts in your name.
You should also make sure to leave your Social Security card at home, in a safe place such as a safety deposit box at your bank. You don't want to lose your Social Security card while on the road. As Forbes writes, identity thieves would love to get possession of this card. They can do plenty of damages once it's in their possession.
Forbes also recommends that you prune your wallet before you leave. Remove any identification cards or credit cards that you won't need. This way, if you lose your wallet on the road, thieves won't have quite as much information to use against you.
What to do if disaster strikes
If the unthinkable should happen and your wallet is lost or stolen, don't delay. Immediately call the issuers of your credit, debit, medical and drivers license cards, recommends Travel Agent Central. Your credit and debit card issuers can cancel those cards. The longer you wait, the more damage thieves can cause. Keeping printed copies of all your cards and information in a secure location can make reporting their loss easier.
Travel Agent Central also recommends that you file a police report with local law enforcement officials. The report filing can help establish your credibility should the thieves who stole your wallet make fraudulent purchases with your credit cards.
The site says, too that you should immediately contact the three national credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- to place fraud alerts on your credit report. These alerts might prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
Once you return home from your trip, it's time to study your credit card and other financial account statements for unexplained purchases. Careful checking is the best way to determine if someone is using your information to make unauthorized purchases in your name. If you do suspect fraud, make sure to call the customer service number on your account statement immediately.
You should also order copies of your three credit reports -- one each from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Check for any new credit accounts that an identity thief might have opened in your name without your permission. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three bureaus. You can order these three reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you do notice any suspicious activity on your report, be sure to contact the credit bureaus immediately.
Traveling should be a fun experience. But identity theft can quickly ruin a dream vacation. Take these steps to make sure that your travel experiences are happy ones.
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