Going Abroad This Summer? You May Be at Risk for Identity Theft

3 June 2015

You’re all packed up and ready for that big trip abroad you’ve been planning. You’ve gone over your packing list multiple times and have gathered together everything you could need while you’re gone — but have you thought about what you’ll need to do in order to protect yourself from identity theft?

According to a recent survey, international travelers are about 1.5 times more likely to have their identities stolen than those who remain at home. In certain areas of the world, the risk is even higher. For example, travelers to Eastern Europe and South Asia are 2.4 times more vulnerable to identity theft than their homebody compatriots. Meanwhile, traveling to Western Europe, which is one of the most popular destinations for native North Americans, increases your risk by 1.7 times.

Why is this the case? The survey found that much of the risk arises from using less-than-secure internet connections and social media. The most risky behaviors to participate in while abroad were found to be posting pictures, which elevated travelers’ chances of identity theft by 46 percent, and checking GPS, which increased them by 27 percent.

However, taking a few simple precautions can help you significantly reduce the chances that your information will be taken advantage of while you travel. Here are some of the best steps you can take before, during and after your trip:

  • Store sensitive documents away before you leave. Leave documents such as birth certificates and social insurance cards at home while you travel, and be sure to lock them away in a safe deposit box in case of a home break-in.
  • Alert your credit card companies to where you’re going. If your credit card company doesn’t know where you’re planning to travel, your own legitimate purchases might end up being flagged as fraudulent. Moreover, letting the company know your specific itinerary will make it easier for them to determine if your card has been stolen and used in a country you didn’t plan to visit.
  • Don’t put too much personal information on your luggage tag. Many people put their full name, address and phone number on their luggage tags, but sharing this much information can be risky if the luggage is lost. Instead, write only your last name and phone number so that you can be contacted in case of a lost bag.
  • Take a break from social media. As mentioned earlier, posting updates and photos on social media accounts is one of the riskiest activities to take part in abroad. Geotagging your posts makes you even more vulnerable, so if you must access social media during your vacation, make sure to keep your device from automatically updating your location.

If you travel abroad often, it can be a good idea to sign up for a credit monitoring service to give yourself some peace of mind. These services can alert you to certain activities on your credit file that may indicate fraud.