5 Tips to Protect Your Identity When You Travel

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Traveling around the world has never been easier. Whether we are talking about jumbo jets, boarding passes on your smartphone, or Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, getting from point A to point B is a breeze. Unfortunately, the rise of smartphones, Wi-Fi, and other technologies meant to make our lives easier have also introduced new threats to our personal data. 


According to a recent case study, just over 13 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2015, with losses totaling $15 billion. These numbers aren’t restricted by any one location, with $2.4 billion worth of fraud using U.S credit cards conducted outside of the U.S. Using your credit card in New York City, Baghdad, or Berlin makes no difference- fraudsters exist in every corner of the world. 

Business travelers and backpackers alike rely on technology and online banking, so why risk experiencing a headache (or even worse!) on your next trip? Take a look at some helpful tips to protect your identity while on the go. 
  • Passwords / Locks / Safes
Right about now, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking: “Duh, I have a password on my iPhone and laptop, I’m good.” The reality is that it simply isn’t that easy anymore. Passwords and PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) are easy to guess and unlock, especially when you take into consideration the fact that people are still using passwords like “123456” and “passw0rd.”

Choose a password with a combination of letters, numbers, and random symbols. PINs shouldn’t just be “1234” or “0000” while using your birth year or last four digits of your Social Security number is also a bad idea. 

Additionally, using a laptop/suitcase lock, or a hotel safe is still the most concrete way of protecting yourself on the go. Paying a couple of extra dollars for a hotel safe or lockbox might just save you a lot of trouble down the road. 
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Virtual Private Networks are another a great way to make sure nobody is sniffing around on your devices. VPNs encrypt all data that is communicated between your device and the Internet, allowing you to browse the Internet anonymously and without the fear of being tracked or snooped on. 

VPNs are especially useful for business travelers, with sensitive, work-related data being of the utmost importance. Most devices that access the Internet can take advantage of a VPN, with the added benefit of being able to choose your “virtual location” to bypass geo-restrictions for services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. 

There are many kinds of VPNs out there, with encryption levels and speeds being the main features to keep an eye on. Read more about what exactly a VPN is here
  • Beware of “Free Wi-Fi.”
Let’s face it; we’ve all experienced a time in our lives where we were desperate enough to connect to any nearby open Wi-Fi network. The fact is that airports, cafes, and even hotels can be susceptible to malicious Wi-Fi networks. Anyone can setup a wireless network and name it whatever they want to take advantage of those looking to simply update their Facebook status or check Google Maps.

Open WiFi networks are especially dangerous, allowing hackers to monitor your Internet activity and in some cases even access your personal files! Verify that the network you are connecting to is an official network and not some guy hiding in a bathroom stall with a laptop.
  • Backup your device
While this tip only shows value after you experience theft or data loss, backing up your devices before you leave for your trip should be high on the checklist. Whether your data is compromised, devices get stolen, or pictures are accidently erased, having a backup of your device can save you from a lot of potential headaches. 

While there are a large number of paid backup services out there, iOS users can take advantage of iCloud’s five free GBs, while Dropbox offers free storage up to two GBs. 
  • Travel light and smart
The everyday use of apps and technology has made checking into a flight or calling an Uber remarkably easy. An additional bonus is that you aren’t required to carry your entire life around with you. Social Security cards, birth certificates, and other official documents can all stay home, with even passports not being required in some cases

With these documents potentially giving an identity thief complete access to your personal details, it’s best to keep these at home when possible and travel light and worry-free. 

So there you have it! Take advantage of some of these tips on your next journey to avoid the frustration and anger of being a victim of identity theft. 

Do you have any other tips or comments? Leave them below! 

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