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April 23, 2013

How to avoid identity theft when traveling abroad

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, What tips can you recommend to help retirees guard against identity theft when traveling? My sister and her husband had their identity stolen while on vacation last year, and I want to make sure I’m protecting myself on my trip to Europe next month.

— Paranoid Pam

 

Dear Pam,

Most people don’t realize that when you travel, your risk of identity theft increases. Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself while you’re away.

· Alert your credit card companies: Before you leave, let them know when, where and how long you’ll be traveling. This helps their fraud departments stop bogus charges if your card is used where you’re not. And, it reduces the risk that your card will be frozen when you use it far from home.

· Secure your mail: Get a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail every day while you’re gone, or stop your mail at the post office. A full mailbox can be very inviting to identity thieves and burglars. Also, stop the newspaper, and don’t broadcast your travel plans on social networking websites.

· Clean out your wallet: Pickpockets love tourist destinations, so take only essential identifiers, like your driver’s license and just two credit cards — carry one with you, and lock the other one in a hotel room safe in case your wallet gets stolen. Also, don’t ever carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and leave your checkbook home, too.

It’s also a good idea to make copies of your plane tickets, hotel reservations, passport, driver’s license and credit cards and leave them with a friend or relative who you can call in an emergency. And make a list of contact numbers of your credit card providers so you can call them if your pocket gets picked.

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