A Publication of WTVP

One of the best things about this time of year (besides the return of the sun), is that it’s usually the time most of us get a chance to take a vacation. Unfortunately, thieves never go on holiday.

Whether you’re planning a road trip with the family or an exotic trip abroad this summer, its important to take a moment to plan ahead and take a few simple precautions to better protect yourself while on the road. Follow these tips and keep your finances and credit rating intact so all of your travel memories are good ones.

Watch Your Wallet
This is an obvious one, but it’s paramount. New surroundings and new experiences can often be distracting. So, women, don’t let handbags or purses gape open. And men, don’t carry your wallets in back pockets where crafty pickpockets can get at them easily.

The Bare Necessities
TIP #1. Before heading out on your trip, take a few minutes to pare down what you carry in your wallet. Bring only the cards and information that are absolutely necessary for the trip. Never carry your Social Security card with you; leave it at home in a safe place.

TIP #2. Consider using a traveler’s money belt or pouch for your passport, traveler’s cheques and cash when traveling. Security experts recommend only keeping a small amount of spending money in your wallet or purse. Then, for safekeeping, tuck the majority of your money away in your money belt/pouch. If you need more money, go into a bathroom or another private place before removing your money belt/pouch.

TIP #3. As an added precaution, keep all account numbers for your bank and credit cards, as well as the proof of purchase for travelers’ cheques separate from your wallet or purse. That way, should a thief manage to get through your defenses, you have all the information you need to stop them quickly before they can inflict much damage to your credit card or bank balance.

Don’t Broadcast Your Out-of-Town Status
Remember, thieves look for easy targets. A few simple precautions help reduce the likelihood that thieves will target you or your home.

TIP #4. If you’re going to be away for a while, leave a few lights on so your home looks occupied.

TIP #5. Stop newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold your mail. For trips lasting more than 30 days, you might want to forward your mail to another address. You can stop your mail or change your address by going to, stopping by the local post office, or asking your mail carrier in person.

Learn to Say “No” and Always Ask “Why?”
TIP #6. Don’t give out personal information just because someone asks for it. For example, when checking into a hotel or even making a purchase, you may be asked for your home phone number, but you don’t need to give it to them. You can say “no” or “I prefer not to give that out.”

And, of course, be very careful with your Social Security number. The Federal Trade Commission suggests you always ask, “Why do you need it?” and “How will my Social Security number be used?” before you volunteer this very important and sensitive piece of data.

Be Careful at ATMs
TIP #7. Never tell your PIN to anyone, and don’t write it down and carry it with the card. When using your ATM card, make sure you complete the transaction and have your card in hand before leaving the area. Some ATMs hold the card briefly before spitting it back out, and it can be easy to forget as you retrieve your cash. Don’t allow yourself to be crowded as you use the cash machine. If you feel uncomfortable, go to another ATM in a busy location, or stop at a market, buy a pack of gum and get cash back.

Be Vigilant When Making Purchases
TIP #8. Whenever you pay with your credit or debit card, take a moment to check the receipt. Because you are liable for the amount in the “total” box, make sure it is filled in before you sign.

Keep all your receipts and match them against the monthly statement when it arrives. Think of it as another way to relive your travels. “Oh, yeah! That was the store where I bought that great hat!” If you were charged too much, call your bank immediately.

TIP #9. Never countersign your travelers’ cheques in advance.

Monitor Activity on Your Accounts
It’s a good idea to sign up for online banking so you can keep track of your accounts whenever—or wherever—you may be traveling.

TIP #10. Notify your bank that you are traveling so they will be aware that some unusual charges may appear. That way the bank knows to expect some charges in Cancun, but to be suspicious of a charge for car repairs in Dayton, Ohio, made at the same time.

Watch Computer Use
Internet cafes or computers at hotels are great for booking the next leg of your trip and checking in with friends, but remember they’re not necessarily as safe as your carefully virus-protected home computer.

TIP #11. When conducting sensitive transactions in a public place, always look for the padlock sign next to the URL or web address of the website you are visiting. This confirms you are visiting a secure website. When finished with your transaction, make sure you sign out completely. It’s also a good idea to take a moment to clear your information from the computer’s cache memory—if necessary, check with staff to help you.

If the Worst Occurs
If your wallet or cards are stolen, or if you feel your personal information may have been compromised, don’t hesitate to act. Report the incident to local police and get a police report number. Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know what has happened. Remember to document every conversation as completely as possible. If you’re diligent, quick and thorough, you should be able to put the incident behind you quickly.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, millions of people have suffered some form of identity theft. While identity theft and fraud are increasingly prevalent crimes these days, with some commonsense precautions, you can reduce your risk and concentrate on having a great trip. iBi