Your vacation should be a time for you to relax and unwind, but travellers need to take safety seriously. Thieves are everywhere, and they often view tourists as easy targets. Taking a few simple steps before you leave and while you are on vacation can greatly reduce your odds of becoming a victim.
Before Your Trip
In the days and weeks leading up to your trip, you should make a few changes to protect your safety and privacy while away from home. These steps will help reduce the chances of theft and reduce the impact if something does happen.
Lighten Up Your Wallet
You will need a credit card and an ATM card for your vacation, but you can leave the rest of your bulging wallet at home. Go through your wallet before your trip and remove things like Social Security cards, car registrations and extra credit cards. These items can be a real hassle to get replaced, so leaving them at home is the best way to protect yourself.
Bring along an extra credit and ATM card and store them in the hotel safe when you arrive at your destination. Having a spare card available will allow you to continue the trip if your wallet is lost or stolen.
Be sure to write down the card numbers and toll-free help lines for every card in your wallet. Having the phone numbers available will make it easier to get the cards replaced and head off any unauthorized charges. If you are traveling overseas, you will also need to write down the local phone numbers, since the toll-free numbers may not work outside the United States.
Call Your Bank
Banks monitor accounts and credit cards, looking for unusual activity. A sudden surge in the number of charges or the nature of the spending could trigger a fraud alert and cause your account to be frozen. The same is true of debit purchases and ATM withdrawals. If the bank suspects that someone has stolen your card, they can take proactive measures to protect you, including placing a freeze or fraud alert on your account.
That could put your vacation on hold, but you can avoid the problem with some proactive planning of your own. Just call the bank and credit card issuer before you leave and let them know you have a vacation planned.
Stay Mum on Social Media
You can share all your vacation photos when you get back, but it is best to stay mum on Facebook and Twitter before your trip. You never know who is watching, and you do not want to tip off local criminals that the house will be empty.
Set Up a House Sitter
It is a good idea to have someone back home keep an eye on your home, so ask a trusted friend to check in from time to time. If you have a home monitoring system, you may be able to watch your home, and even call the police, right from your smartphone. If you have such capabilities, you will want to practice with it before the trip so you know how it works.
If you do have a house sitter or friend watching your home, you can leave copies of important documents like your passport with that person. Having your passport number available will make getting an emergency replacement much easier.
Prepare Your Smartphone
You probably store a lot of data on your smartphone, including some private information, you probably shouldn’t. Take a few minutes to go through those stored files and offload any that contain personal or financial information. You can store those documents to the cloud, but having them on the actual smartphone could put your identity at risk.
During Your Trip
As a holiday maker it is your aim to relax and have fun, but that does not mean you can drop your guard altogether. You still need to follow some basic safety procedures while on vacation.
Be Careful at ATMs
Carrying large amounts of cash is generally a bad idea. The wide availability of ATMs means you do not have to carry much cash, since you can restock whenever you need to. You need to be careful about which ATMs you choose, however. Avoid using standalone ATMS, since they are easy for thieves to compromise. Stick to ATMs that are physically attached to bank branches; they are much safer.
Also avoid ATMs that are off the beaten track or out of the way. Stick to main thoroughfares and always be aware of your surroundings. If something does not look right or you simply do not like the look of those around you, move on to another ATM.
Be Careful What You Leave Out
At home you may be used to laying your mail on the table and just chucking your purse in the corner. You cannot afford the same luxury while on vacation. Your hotel room may seem private, but a wide variety of people, from the hotel owners to the housekeeping staff, can access it.
Keep private information with you or in the hotel safe. Be sure to take your money and credit cards with you whenever you leave the room, even if you expect to be gone for only a short time.
Watch Out for Hotel Scams
Some thieves have targeted hotel guests by calling their rooms and claiming to be with the front desk. The thief claims to need your credit card number, and once they get it they can enjoy a great shopping spree on your dime.
It pays to be suspicious of calls like these. If you receive a call purporting to be from the front desk, hang up and call down yourself. If the call was legitimate, you can pass on the needed information. If not, you will have protected yourself and your hard earned cash.
Be Careful on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is a great convenience, but it is not secure. Be careful what you do when connected to a public Wi-Fi network, whether at the hotel or local coffee shop. Avoid online banking sites and online shopping, and be careful what you share when you write an email to people back home.