With the highest Thanksgiving holiday travel volume since 2007 forecast this year, millions will be kicking off the holiday season with a trip. AAA encourages these travelers to keep the following tips in mind, to prevent identity thieves from stealing holiday joy.
An estimated 17.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2014, according to the Department of Justice. In most cases identity theft can be resolved with a simple call to the bank or credit card company. In more extreme cases, identity thieves can wreak havoc on a victim’s life for years to come.
Prevention is the best defense against identity theft, and the following five tips can help holiday travelers safeguard their identity:
Thin your wallet: Pack only the necessary credit cards, and leave others at home in a safe location. Make sure you and your travel companions carry cards with different numbers on them. Then, if one is stolen, you have other cards to use that aren’t tied to that account.
Pack alternative payment methods: Travel experts recommend at least $100 per person, per day, split up in various hidden locations. Local currency is especially important when going to a foreign country, as it can be used for cab rides, tips and other small purchases.
In addition to cash, consider carrying a prepaid, reloadable travel card. These have replaced travelers’ checks and enable consumers to carry money safely, with many of the same conveniences as a bank card. Because these cards don’t have names on them, and aren’t tied to a bank account, thieves can’t steal personal information from them. If a card is lost or stolen, thieves only have access to what’s on the card, versus a large credit limit on a credit card. Consumers can also retrieve the money lost by calling the number located on the back of the card.
Protect your mobile device: Always use the auto-lock feature to protect personal information; especially when using payment apps, like Google Wallet and Apple Pay, instead of traditional credit cards. When a phone is properly locked, these apps offer a secure way to pay for travel expenses, because they use tokenization, which means they substitute credit card numbers with a one-time code that thieves can’t reuse.
Use RFID blocking devices: Radio frequency identification (RFID) refers to technologies that use radio waves for identification. This includes credit cards and debit cards. Thieves can purchase RFID skimmers online, brush the device by someone’s purse or wallet and steal the information from the cards inside. These thieves will then overlay the victim’s information on any card with a magnetic strip and use it to make purchases. Any card with a magnetic strip is susceptible to this type of crime.
Consumers can protect themselves by purchasing RFID blocking devices. These are simply wallets, purses, or other containers that prevent radio frequencies from penetrating and reaching the cards.
Monitor accounts: Make a list of the account numbers and customer service phone numbers for the credit cards and prepaid travel cards you’ve packed. Keep them in a secure location, away from the cards, so you can access them easily and call immediately if a card is lost or stolen.