5 ways to protect your identity, finances while on vacation
Many people go on vacation during this time of year. Unfortunately, identity thieves know this, and take advantage as New Jerseyans let their guards down.
Credit repairman Paul Oster, founder of Better Qualified in Eatontown says vacation is often a time when people spend money, and may not be as careful with how they protect their identity. This is bad news for consumers, Oster said, but good news for thieves.
"This is when they (thieves) prey on us because we are simply that much more vulnerable. We are on vacation, we have all of the kids, the entire family, things are chaotic, maybe we have enjoyed a couple of adult beverages," Oster said, calling it "a business model for these identity thieves."
Oster advises vacationers to take the following precautions in order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft while on vacation:
1. Avoid using the hotel WiFi
This is especially important when checking things like bank accounts. Clear out your wallet and only take and use one credit card while you're away, Oster said. He also advises vacationers to make a copy of every document they bring while on vacation, in case anything is stolen.
2. Beware of pickpockets
"People think that a lot of times identity theft is sophisticated electronic crime, when in fact, pickpocketing is still the second-most common way that people lose their documents, their purses and their wallets," Oster said. "So make sure that your wallets and your purses are secure on your person. Pay attention in big crowds. Don't think that it cannot happen to you, because again, these people are experts at doing this."
3. Use technology to 'lock' mobile devices
Oster recommends downloading free software for phones and other mobile devices that will allow the owner of the device to lock or delete any secure information or documents. He said developers such as Avast and McAfee have apps and software that can be downloaded.
"These are free apps that you can download on your mobile devices. If they are stolen or lost, you can wipe them clean or have them locked," he said.
4. Sign up for credit card, bank alerts
Oster also advises vacationers who bring credit cards along to sign up for usage alerts and set the dollar amount very low for the notification.
"This way, if you are lying in bed, it's 2 a.m., and you get an alert from the credit card company that says someone spent $25, you know that it was not you. And early detection is the key here. You have to deal with these things immediately."
5. Use gift cards instead of credit cards
According to Oster, another safeguard against identity theft might involve purchasing pre-paid gift cards, or debit cards and using them during your vacation instead of a bank card "to limit your exposure in the event that it is lost or stolen."
"An ounce of prevention here, is worth so much," Oster said.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.