How to avoid identity theft when you travel

Published 10:40am Friday, April 26, 2013

Protect your smartphone: These are gold mines for ID thieves. If you use a smartphone, protect your personal information by using the security settings to lock your screen with a password. Then install a GPS location tracking app on your phone such as “Where’s My Droid” for Android devices, or if you’re an iPhone user, activate the built in “Find My iPhone” app. You can also set up your phone so that if it does get stolen, you can remotely erase its data. Your wireless carrier may offer this service, and many security apps include this feature.

Use safe ATMs. If you need cash while you’re away, use ATMs that are located at banks. These are more secure than stand-alone ATMs which can be rigged to capture your card information that thieves can steal.

Safeguard your hotel: Never leave your wallet, passport, credit cards or other valuables lying around your hotel room. Either keep them with you or lock them up in the hotel safe. And if you have a laptop computer or tablet, get a locking device that lets you lock it to something fixed in the room. You local computer store can help you with this.

Be careful with hotel computers and free Wi-Fi networks: Don’t access your personal accounts or disclose any of your financial information on hotel or other public computers or on public Wi-Fi networks. You never know what identity-stealing software is at work.

Freeze your credit: A temporary freeze denies access to your credit history, so ID thieves can’t open accounts in your name while you’re away, but it doesn’t stop you from using your credit card. To set up a freeze, contact each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax (equifax.com, 800-685-1111), Experian (experian.com, 888-397-3742) and TransUnion (transunion.com, 877-322-8228). It typically costs around $10 per credit bureau to freeze your account, and $10 to unfreeze it. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time this is a good extra protection.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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