Recently, my husband and I took a long weekend anniversary getaway. We made the plans and reservations, packed, and arranged for a friend to take care of our pets while we were away. We had a great time on our trip and came back very relaxed.
However, we also had a surprise waiting for us when we got home! We had forgotten to ask our friend to bring in our mail, so our mailbox was full of not only ads and magazines, but bills as well.
Since then, we have been watching our accounts online to make sure that no unknown charges show up. As a credit counselor at Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, I’ve learned that identity thieves can be patient, so we will continue monitoring our credit reports regularly and alert our bank or creditors if we see anything unusual. And, I have learned my lesson–I have signed up for paperless billing with my bank accounts and creditors. Â In the future, I will be sure to either explicitly ask someone to take our mail into our house or contact the post office to have it held there until we return. Even though we were only gone for a few days, our full mailbox could easily have been targeted.
The biggest step you can take in fighting identity theft is to be proactive. A little extra work ahead of time can prevent a huge headache and an even bigger mess to be cleaned up. Here are a few extra tips for protecting yourself as you get ready to take your own vacation:
- Leave any unneeded credit cards at home in a safe or locked filing cabinet.
- Don’t use freestanding ATMs (like those in donut shops or convenience stores). They are common prey for thieves who use technology to skim your account information as you swipe your card.
- Don’t leave your wallet, checkbook or any credit cards out in your hotel room while you are not there. Be sure to stow them in the safe in your hotel room.
- If you travel with your computer and leave it in your room, make sure it’s password protected and any sensitive files are encrypted.
- Don’t use public computers to access any online banking or credit card accounts.
This is not a complete list, so be sure to do your research and take as many steps as you can to protect yourself and your credit. When you return home with piece of mind, you’ll be glad you did.