As millions of Californians are relaxing at the beach, visiting theme parks, setting sail on cruises or exploring exotic destinations this summer, the Automobile Club of Southern California is reminding travelers to take some simple precautions and prevent ID theft on vacation.
“Summer vacations are a time to unwind, reconnect and build memories with loved ones,” said John Straser, manager of the Auto Club’s ProtectMyID® program for members. “Travelers can preserve their peace of mind by taking a few common-sense steps to prevent criminals from acquiring personal information that can cause a lot of headaches during and after vacations.”
Thieves can steal account numbers or other personal data enabling them to set up credit cards in another person’s name. The proliferation of mobile devices has provided another easy means for criminals to access personal data and steal thousands of dollars using other people’s identities.
Services like ProtectMyID Essential (free to Auto Club members), ProtectMyID Deluxe and ProtectMyID Platinum – which monitor users’ credit activities and assist in resolving fraudulent charges – are critical to consumers as ID theft crime continues to grow, Straser said.
Additionally, the Auto Club advises the following precautions for travelers:
Stop your mail while you’re on vacation. Mail theft continues to be a common way for thieves to access personal data. Just call the U.S. Postal Service at (800) 275-8777 or visit http://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail.
Protect portable electronics with passwords. While you’re out and about on a trip, there are more chances for criminals to take advantage of a couple of minutes of inattention on your part. Thieves need just a couple of minutes with a device to extract personal information, so set up your devices to automatically lock and require a password or passcode to reopen. Experian, a leading information services company and the Auto Club’s partner in offering the ProtectMyID benefit, recommends using a seven-digit passcode instead of the typical four digits for smartphones and tablets.
Be cautious with navigation apps. Don’t store your home address in these apps – if your device is stolen and unlocked while on vacation or at any time, it’s an easy way for a criminal to access it. Instead, use a nearby public location as your “home address” on the app, allowing you to navigate home without risking your security.
Take care on public WiFi. You’ll likely be using more public WiFi spots than usual when you’re on vacation. Avoid conducting financial transactions of any type on public WiFi, because thieves can monitor them with “sniffers” and grab credit card numbers, account numbers and other personal information. If possible, use public WiFi networks that require a password to join. And if your signal strength allows, use your phone’s cellular data service instead of public WiFi.
Be prepared to erase your device remotely. If someone does steal your device, you’ll want to remove everything that enables them to assume your identity. Make sure you regularly back up your device online with a service like iCloud, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, so that you won’t lose anything and it can be restored on a replacement device. As soon as you know your device has been stolen, you should follow the procedures from the manufacturer to remotely wipe vital data.
ProtectMyID, part of Experian, is a leading full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution. It offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. For more information, visit AAA.com/CreditMonitoring.