Don’t take a vacation from guarding against ID theft, AAA warns

A few simple precautions can keep you from becoming a victim while traveling

Going on vacation? Don’t forget to protect yourself against ID theft with some simple precautions while traveling, AAA Tidewater Virginia warns.

“Summer vacations are a time to unwind, reconnect and build memories with loved ones,” said Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public relations for AAA Tidewater. “Travelers can preserve their peace of mind by taking a few common-sense steps to prevent criminals from acquiring personal information that can cause a lot of headaches during and after vacations.”

Thieves can steal account numbers or other personal data, enabling them to set up credit cards in another person’s name, Blumling said. In addition, mobile devices make it easy for criminals to access personal data and steal thousands of dollars using other other’s identities.

AAA Tidewater has these tips to avoid identity theft while traveling:

Stop your mail while you’re on vacation. Mail theft continues to be a common way for thieves to access personal data. Just call the U.S. Postal Service at (800) 275-8777 or visit here.

Protect portable electronics with passwords. While you’re out and about on a trip, there are more chances for criminals to take advantage of a couple of minutes of inattention on your part. Thieves need just a couple of minutes with a device to extract personal information, so set up your devices to automatically lock and require a password or pass code to reopen. Experian, a leading information services company, recommends using a seven-digit pass code instead of the typical four digits required for smartphones and tablets.

Be cautious with navigation apps. Don’t store your home address in these apps — if your device is stolen and unlocked while on vacation or at any time, it’s an easy way for a criminal to access it. Instead, use a nearby public location as your “home address” on the app, allowing you to navigate home without risking your security.

Take care on public WiFi. You’ll likely be using more public WiFi spots than usual when you’re on vacation. Avoid conducting financial transactions of any type on public WiFi, because thieves can them with “sniffers” and grab credit card numbers, account numbers and other personal information. If possible, use public WiFi networks that require a password to join. And if your signal strength allows, use your phone’s cellular data service instead of public WiFi.

Be prepared to erase your device remotely. If someone does steal your device, you’ll want to remove everything that enables them to assume your identity. Make sure you regularly back up your device online with a service like iCloud, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive so that you won’t lose anything and it can be restored on a replacement device. As soon as you know your device has been stolen, you should follow the procedures from the manufacturer to remotely wipe vital data.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.