As a CPA, you are more aware than most people of the importance of protecting yourself financially. But in the fun and excitement of summer travel, it can be easy to let down your guard.
During high travel season, scams often pop up looking to take advantage of people as they book their vacation, and while they’re on a “fun in the sun” trip.
When booking travel, some of the industry best practices for protecting credit card data and other personally identifying information apply generally. But the dangers don’t end with booking. Identity theft could happen at any time, on the road or even in a different country.
Here are some tips to help you protect your identity and your valuables while traveling this summer.
Things to do before hitting the road
- When booking reservations, including flights, car rentals, hotels and tours, make sure you’re using a secure and reputable site. AAA recommends that people only book travel through well-known sites they recognize or can find solid information about online. Additionally, any site that doesn’t have a secure checkout page (easily spotted with the “https://” prefix and lock icon before the web address) should be avoided.
- Secure your home before leaving for your trip against potential theft, id or otherwise. Thieves will often target empty homes to steal valuables and personal information. While there’s no surefire way to prevent a break-in, there are simple steps you can take, such as ensuring all windows and doors are locked before leaving and setting timers for lights and other devices so that homes appear occupied while your away.
- Resist posting every intimate detail of your upcoming trip on social media. While your friends may enjoy it, it could also lead to ill-intentioned individuals taking advantage of an empty house. Instead, share photos of your vacation once you’re back.
- If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, suspend your newspaper and mail delivery to avoid the tell-tale signs of an empty house. You especially don’t want packages left in front of your door overnight—a sure sign that no one is home.
- Secure all sensitive documents including Social Security cards and birth certificates in a locked safe that’s hidden away somewhere on the property. This is a good idea to do regardless of whether you’re on vacation. Then, even if a thief does gain access to your house, they are less likely to have access to your identity.
Things to do while on vacation
- Guard critical documents, like driver’s licenses, personal IDs and passports (if traveling abroad) in a safe place while traveling. This can be either the hotel room safe, behind the front desk, or just hidden on your person, in a small fanny pack or a close kept purse. Hotel room locks have been reported to be easy to hack, according to an article in Business Travel Life, and are easy targets because of the number of people coming and going at all hours.
- Update your password protections and other layers of security on mobile devices like phones, tablets and laptops, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Keep your devices discretely stowed away in public.
- Use safe browsing habits when connected to public Wi-Fi or hotspots. On open connections, hackers could be using the same connection to intercept the information you’re sending. If absolutely necessary, use the hotel’s password protected connection or your phone’s data plan when checking banking information or other sensitive sites.
- Avoid using a card connected to your bank account when abroad. If a hacker uses a credit card skimmer to steal your information, they could empty your bank account. Credit cards, on the other hand, usually include fraud monitoring and fund replacement that debit cards may not offer. Check your card agreements and protections before traveling to ensure that you’re using the best method for you.
The best defense against travel-related fraud is to stay vigilant, use common sense, and enroll in an identity theft protection plan. Now that AICPA is partnering with Identity Guard, you can protect your entire household for up to 57% off.† Get credit monitoring and alerts that will inform you of certain activity that may indicate fraud on your accounts. At AICPA member rates, you can protect everyone in your household at the premier level for just $20.
Learn more about the benefits of identity theft protection with Identity Guard at www.identityguard.com/aicpa.
†Maximum savings based upon Identity Guard Premier Family package. Savings range from 40 - 57%.