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Security, travel securely Identity theft
Preventing identity theft

Seven useful tips from seasoned business traveler, Denise Hummel

Text Denise Hummel
Photography Courtesy
Every year, about 10 million people, in the United States alone, are the victim of identity theft. The phenomenon, which has expanded with the age of the internet, has an enormous impact on the individuals victimized. It takes months, some times years, to undo the handy-work of identity thieves, restore credit, and re-establish your life as you once knew it. The bad news is that there is no guaranteed way to prevent the possibility of it happening to you. The good news is that there are simple steps business travelers can take to minimize the risk of being had. Here are some tried and true hints. Not every one will work for every business traveler, but being aware of them, and making intelligent choices that work for you and your habits, will minimize risk.

HINT NUMBER ONE: Don't ever travel with your Social Security card. That, in conjunction with the birth date and address on your drivers license is enough ammunition for a thief to assume your identity practically instantaneously. There is absolutely no advantage in traveling with it. Commit it to memory, and leave it at home in your safe. Similarly UK residents should keep their NI number safely at home.

HINT NUMBER TWO: If possible, use a credit card, rather than a debit card. Why? Because of the speed of the transaction process. Credit cards give you time to reach home and check your statement before paying, whereas debit cards cause the cost of your purchase to be deducted directly from your checking account. This happens immediately, and there is no time to dispute the fraudulent charge. Some of you will point to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which claims to protect victims of debit card theft, but this must be weighted against the Fair Credit Billing Act, which offers superior protection to vendors. If you wade through the legalese, you'll realize that it's simply better to use a credit card.

A good precaution is to travel with more than one credit card and keep one of them separate in a safe place. Then if your wallet is stolen, or if one card is cancelled or suspended due to suspected fraud, you still have access to funds

HINT NUMBER THREE: Photocopy all your credit cards, driver's license, and any other important documentation, and keep it in a safe place separate from your wallet. For example, it can go into the hotel safe while you're out. You can then shift into high gear and call all necessary companies to report any theft immediately.

HINT NUMBER FOUR: If you don't have a passport, get one. Why? Because identity thieves are famous for using your data to obtain a passport. If you have one already, they can't do it.
HINT NUMBER FIVE: Do not record your credit card and other financial data in your Blackberry or Laptop unless it is password protected. Leaving your laptop in your room without protecting your data, leaves that information vulnerable to any over-achieving housekeeper or maintenance staff. Same thing goes for financial papers and other hard copy data left around on the desk or tossed in the waste basket.

HINT NUMBER SIX: Do not make financial transactions on a wireless network at a hotel, or anywhere, that is not secured. Do not use a hotel computer to make any financial transaction or open any browsers, use any passwords, related to financial transactions. Tracking software is inexpensive and can be installed on any hotel computer by a wayward employer, or anyone else for that matter. Software, like Spector, can actually take a picture of what goes up on your screen every few seconds, piecing together your username and password and tracing the sites that you visited. A good practice is to use 'Ctrl' + 'H' to remove the history of your internet use from the computer you are using, but it's not fool-proof by any means.

HINT NUMBER SEVEN: Don't put any identity information in your luggage other than the name and address on your luggage tag. Likewise, on long haul flights, don't leave financial or other identifying information in your hand-luggage in the overhead bin, unless it is in an internal pocket and difficult to reach.


What to do Take action immediately. Contact the local police and make a report.

Who to contact If you're in the United States:

  1. Contact the FBI on the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at +1 877-438-4338,

  2. Contact credit-reporting agencies and ask them to tag your account with a fraud alert.

    1. Equifax +1 888-766-0008,
    2. Experian +1 888-397-3742,
      and in the UK +44 870-241-6212,
    3. TransUnion +1 800-680-7289, This will flag your file so that creditors must contact you before extending credit.

Other useful sites

Identity Theft Resource Center, +1 858-693-7935,

Identity Theft Prevention and Survival,


Keep your credit cards secure while travelling on business