The last thing you want to deal with while you're on vacation is a lost or stolen credit card, drivers license, or smart phone. Luckily there are precautions you can take to minimize your risk of theft, or, if it does happen, that it will lead to identity theft.
We’ve never been a fan of identity protection services such as Lifelock, Credit Sesame, or Experian's ProtectMyId, because you can more effectively protect yourself for little or no cost.
Eighty-five percent of cases termed "identity theft" involve the fraudulent use of an existing account, such as a credit card or bank account, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. But consumer-protection laws and zero-liability policies limit the actual cost of that crime for most consumers to zero. A much smaller but more serious threat involves a thief assuming your identity and opening new accounts in your name.
A new survey conducted by Edelman Berland for Experian’s ProtectMyID, an identity protection service, found that 18 percent of the survey's 1,000 respondents said they had "sensitive information" lost or stolen while traveling (credit or debit cards, smart phones, drivers licenses, or passports), and 9 percent said they were the victims of identity theft.
But the study did not define "identity theft", so there is no way of knowing if respondents meant their personal information was just lost or stolen, if they experienced credit card fraud as a result, or if new accounts were opened in their name. Becky Frost, senior education manager for Experian's ProtectMyID, said they might add language that addresses that issue in next year's survey.
The results did show that many travelers failed to take some simple precautions to protect themselves before and during their trips. For example, less than half alerted their debit or credit card providers or bank before departing. Just one in three used smart phone password protection or hotel safes to protect their valuables. And more than a quarter (27 percent) brought their Social Security cards on their trip.
The study also found that consumers feel most vulnerable to identity fraud in Internet cafes and restaurants rather than hotels, where 24 percent of victims reported having their "identity stolen."