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Identity theft while travelling abroad: how to avoid falling victim

by The Travel Magazine
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NB: this is a paid feature by Experian CreditExpert

No matter where you are in the world, the concept of identity theft and fraud is a very real one – one that, no matter how much vigilance you use, you will always run the risk of falling victim to. The concept of identity theft involves the stealing of your personal data (i.e. your name, address and date of birth) for the purpose of committing fraud. If these fraudsters access enough of your data, they can not only commit identity fraud against you, but damage your credit score and your financial prospects – often without you realising.

Identity theft is a very real threat in today’s society, with thousands of people falling victim to impersonation crimes all over the world. In fact, during the first five months of 2013, nearly 60,000 cases were revealed in which a British individual had become a victim of identity theft whilst travelling abroad. Over 46,000 of the individuals were victims of impersonation and another 13,500 of which were victims of take-over. (Source: CIFAS.org)

Thousands of British Nationals have to pay for Emergency Travel Documents while they’re abroad, with an average 80 ETDs issued every single day. (Source: Gov.uk) While some of these issues are due to damaged passports, many are due to passports being lost, or worse still, stolen – 19,169 passports were lost or stolen around the world last year! Passports that have been stolen must be reported as soon as possible to prevent Identity Fraud.

Extra precaution should always be taken in order to prevent identity theft abroad; in fact, the palpable risk of identity theft may even rise when travelling, with many travellers carrying important documents and letting their guard down just enough to become a vulnerable target.

Experian CreditExpert provide seven useful tips to protect yourself and your identity when travelling:

Use the safe in your hotel

Research by Capital One found that 45% of holidaying Brits didn’t make use of this facility, leaving their personal details exposed and at risk of being stolen. Also ensure that no bank details, passports, money or credit cards are left in hotel rooms, even in suitcases. Whether we like it or not, the temptation of left out valuables may be just too much for opportunistic under-paid cleaners and staff.

Shield your PIN number at all times

Research by APACS found that 20% of us don’t do this while at cash machines. With the availability of ATM machines in many resorts abroad, it’s just as important on holiday as it is at home. It is also advised to never use ATM machines with dim lighting, or that are hidden in secluded areas. As the Majority of UK banks have global chains, there is a good chance that it is possible to access your branch.

Pre-Paid Currency Cards

Pre-Paid Currency Cards are widely available, in which money is put on and converted to the correct currency of the country you are visiting. These cards are not linked to your bank account and are pin-protected, and therefore in the event of the card being lost or stolen, there isn’t any chance of the fraudster running up a debt.

Call your bank before you travel

Call your bank before you travel so that they know where you’ll be and what sort of transactions they can expect. Your spending habits are bound to change when you’re away.

Leave a copy of important information

Leave a copy of important information (driving licence, bank details, and passport) with a trusted person at home before you go abroad. This means that in the event of lost or stolen documents, you have the evidence to prove who you are and that you own the accounts.

Use credit cards

It is advised to use credit-cards abroad rather than debit/cash cards as insurance is available for your card in which the company is able to refund any money that you may have possibly lost whilst abroad. Also, a lot of credit card companies will ‘freeze’ your account if any transactions are made which appear out of character. It is advised to contact your credit card provider to inform them of your plans to travel abroad, and in the event of theft or loss of card, contact them to suspend the account.

Protect electrical devices with passwords

Whilst travelling, if you have chosen to bring electrical devices, (i.e. laptop, mobile phone, tablet), protect them with passwords and never leave any form of app active which would display personal information. If you decide to visit an internet cafe, ensure there is nobody behind you when viewing websites that consist of personal information (i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc…) and make sure you log out of every site visited and that you haven’t selected to have your details saved on the computer. It also helps to delete the history on the computer you have used, if possible.

Being on holiday may mean having the chance to relax and unwind, but ensuring that you’re careful and cautious will mean the chances of you falling victim to an identity criminal will reduce dramatically, and will decrease the chances of a problem upon returning home.

Did you ever fall foul of identity theft or fraud when abroad? Tell us your story:

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