Schools are out, summer has finally arrived, and many of us will be taking summer vacations. It is important in today’s world to take some precautions before and during your trip to protect yourself. In the old days when you traveled, you were mostly concerned with pickpockets and other types of petty crimes, and you protected yourself by getting travelers checks; unfortunately, that is no longer sufficient. Just like at home where you have to take precautions to protect your sensitive information, the same thing applies when you travel. In fact, you can make the argument that it applies even more so when you travel, because the thieves know that we all tend to put our guard down when we’re on vacation.
Before you go on a trip, it’s a good idea to clean out your wallet. You don’t have to take every charge card or other piece of information you carry in your wallet on your trip. My advice is to limit yourself to two charge cards. Obviously, you need some proof of ID such as a driver’s license, but as far as I’m concerned, less is more. I also recommend that before you go, you make a copy of your driver’s license and charge card along with the emergency phone number for the credit card company. If something happens on your trip, you’ll have the information to immediately contact your charge card company.
I also recommend making a copy of your passport if you are bringing one.
Obviously, you don’t want to keep the copies of this information in your wallet; you need to keep it elsewhere. It is also not a bad idea to leave a copy of these documents with someone at home and also to notify your charge card company as to where and when you’re going. This will provide you a certain level of protection.
Before you go on your vacation, I also recommend that you do some research as to the current scams that are happening in the area where you are headed. You’d be surprised how much aggravation you could save yourself by doing a little research. For example, those of you who are going to Europe this summer need to be aware of the friendship bracelet scam. In many European cities, people come up to you and put a friendship bracelet on you. Of course, when you don’t pay them for it all hell breaks loose. The bottom line, spend a few minutes before you go on vacation to see what the current scams are in the area you will be visiting.
Just like at home, you also have to be very careful regarding Wi-Fi when you travel. The scam artists these days can very easily create a fake Wi-Fi hub and use that to gain access to your personal information and passwords. Be extremely careful regarding what Wi-Fi site you use, and be careful about transacting sensitive business on any public Wi-Fi.
In the old days when you traveled, you took traveler’s checks to protect yourself. Today, that’s not as much of an issue because ATMs are everywhere around the world. Of course, you also have to be careful about the ATMs you use. Many scam artists set up bogus ATMs which, once again, are meant to get your password and other sensitive information from you. Be very careful about the ATMs that you use. When I travel, I only use ATMs that are at financial institutions. Yes, I may pay a little extra in fees, but it’s worth the protection.
Vacations are meant for us to relax and enjoy ourselves. However, that doesn’t mean we can ever afford to let our guard down. The scam artists are out there and they are waiting for you to let your guard down, allowing them let them take advantage of you; don’t let that happen.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at email@example.com.