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Summer Vacation Financial Safety Tips

Published July 6, 2016

Your summer vacation should be a time for relaxation, so consider taking the following steps before your head off on your well-deserved time away, in order to avoid crossing paths with a thief or hacker.

1. Sign up for bank fraud alerts.

Some financial institutions will immediately notify you of unusual or suspicious activity in your account, for example unusually large purchases. Also, if you’re leaving the country during your vacation it may be a good idea to alert your financial institution so they are not alarmed and don’t send you false notifications when they see transactions on your cards from out of the country.

2. Surf public Wi-Fi spots cautiously.
Hackers may be able to access public networks and see any information you send over them, including bank account numbers, logins and passwords. You may consider skipping Wi-Fi while traveling, unless you use a virtual private network. If you don’t have a VPN, consider sticking with a cellular signal, as it’s much safer. For a laptop, you can also use hotspot on your phone to connect over cellular. Cellular text-messaging and VPNs are good alternatives, but the reality is, you may still choose to use public networks to surf the Web, especially if you’re not sending sensitive data over Wi-Fi. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to set your device to forget that network when you log off. That way, it won’t automatically log back on to it the next time you go online.

3. Install phone-tracker software.
We all know that fretful feeling when we misplace our phone! If your device goes missing, you may be able to use “find my phone” or similar software to pinpoint its location and retrieve it. If that’s not possible, some apps could erase all the data on the device, so it won’t get into the wrong hands. Another way to help prevent data theft is to lock the screens on your electronics with a password.

4. Keep your purse or wallet secure.
This one seems obvious, but it’s still worth stating: If you carry a handbag, try to keep it in front of you, so it’s not an easy mark for thieves. If you have a wallet, try to secure it as well. Another idea is to wrap the wallet in a rubber band or other coarse material so that it won’t easily slide out of your pocket. In addition to securing your belongings, it’s also a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and try not to become distracted.

5. Be careful around ATMs.
Again, another seemingly obvious tip that you may forget: Look at ATMs before you swipe. Check for loose housing, exposed wires, bulkiness and anything that looks out of ordinary. Those are all signs that a thief may have installed a skimmer on the machine, which could lift the data from your card. Whenever possible, try to use a bank branch or merchant you trust when withdrawing cash.

6. Watch out for fake front desk calls.
These kind of scams work to manipulate and pressure you: Say you’re staying in a hotel and someone calls your room, says he’s from the “front desk” and needs to verify your credit card number. Don’t think you have to share your information immediately. You could say you’ll call back, and hang up. Then you can call the front desk using the number you have in your records and ask the staff if they really need this information. If not, you may have just avoided an identity theft attempt!

7. Leave your important financial files at home.
Social Security cards as well as credit and debit cards that you don’t plan to use on the trip should probably stay behind. The fewer sensitive documents you have, the fewer chances that they could be stolen. Despite your best efforts, if you find that your identity has been stolen, it’s important to report it quickly to your financial institutions and the local police.

For more information on how Meriwest can help you with identity theft and similar situations, please contact us or visit this page.

(The following information is repurposed from NerdWallet.)

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