The end-of-year holiday season is approaching rapidly. Before you know it, Christmas decorations will be up in the malls and many of us are looking forward to getting away, even if it is only for a few days. If you are going away, you probably have already booked - or at least planned - your trip. You have also probably thought about securing your home - alerting your security company to the fact that you will be away; asking the neighbours to keep an eye on your property; testing your alarm - you know the drill. But what about your credit security? The last thing you need while you are away is to become the victim of identity theft which could result in your credit being compromised. TransUnion has the following tips to protect your credit and identity during the holiday season.
- Inform your bank and credit card issuers
Most banks will not allow you to use your credit card overseas unless you have already informed them where you will be going, and the dates that you will be away. This is a smart precaution as it helps the financial institution to know that activity on your card in a foreign country is not necessarily a suspicious activity. It also helps you to avoid false alarms - mistaken credit fraud alerts or account access freezes.
- Ensure your transaction alert system is operational
Many people switch off their cell phones when travelling overseas to avoid hefty roaming charges. However, you still need to be able to get alerts from your bank when there are transactions on your bank account and credit card. If you receive alerts via email, you can still switch off data while roaming, but ensure you check your emails via Wifi (often available free of charge) whenever possible.
- Make copies of all your important documents
If you lose important documents while travelling-passports, driver’s licences and credit cards- having photocopies handy can really speed up the replacement process. Along with a list of emergency contact information for family members, doctors and banks, keep one set of document copies in a safe place at home and another in a secure piece of luggage.
- Have someone clear your post box at home
Someone once said “when the cats are away, the mice will play.” You are the cat and criminals are the mice. While you’re on holiday, thieves may see your post piling up, realize you’re gone, and feel more comfortable rifling through that post, digging in your rubbish or even breaking into your home to get credit card applications and other exploitable info information. Even if you don’t have your post delivered to your home, a post box overflowing with junk mail is a dead give-away that your home is unoccupied - and an invitation to thieves to break in.
- Protect your private information in case of a break in
You lock your doors and may have a home security system. But how well are you protecting the personal data you store, use or transmit at home? Store both the originals and copies of your ID books, passports, recent bank statements, and other private documents in a locked file cabinet or safe. Shred documents you no longer need.
- When you return, check your statements and reports
Make sure you don’t come home to unwelcome surprises. Review bank statements and credit card accounts for suspicious withdrawals or charges. Be sure to also check your credit report -look for address changes you didn’t make, new accounts you didn’t create and other unfamiliar details.