The summer travel season is here with high expectations for fun and lasting memories, but vacations can turn into nightmares as travelers try to unravel the damages of identity theft. A new survey conducted by Edelman Berland for Experian’s ProtectMyID® reveals that 30 percent of travelers have experienced identity theft while traveling or know someone who has. Results show that recovery takes time — more than a week in some instances.
“The last thing people want is for their trip to fund an identity thief’s vacation,” said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “Identity theft can derail vacations quickly, but taking some precautions before and during travel can help consumers protect themselves.”
Traveling troubled waters
Nearly one in five travelers reports having sensitive information lost or stolen, and 30 percent said they experienced identity theft while traveling or know someone who has. Those affected by identity theft report the fraud impacted their travel experience. Three in 10 victims say that it took more than a week to resolve the issues caused by identity theft.
Flying by the seat of their pants
Most travelers check for signs of identity fraud after traveling but fail to take proactive precautions before and during their trips.
- Only 39 percent of travelers alert their debit/credit card providers before departing, and only 33 percent notify their bank
- Just one in three travelers use passwords to protect their smartphones
- Thirty-five percent of travelers use hotel safes to store sensitive information
- More than a quarter (27 percent) of people bring their Social Security card with them while traveling
- Twenty percent of vacationers say they do not feel vulnerable to identity theft while traveling
- Ninety-two percent carry credit cards or debit cards while traveling, yet more than half (52 percent) are unaware of their card’s liability limit if lost or stolen
- Women and seniors (adults ages 65 or older) are most likely to take precautions to protect their identities before, during and after traveling
Identity theft hotspots
Consumers have misconceptions about where identity theft occurs.
- Among those who have been victimized personally while traveling, 10 percent do not know where their identity was stolen
- Travelers indicated that they feel most vulnerable to identity theft in restaurants (19 percent), Internet cafes (15 percent), hotels (14 percent) and airports (14 percent)
- Actual numbers show that the highest vulnerabilities occur in hotels (24 percent), restaurants (18 percent), airports (12 percent), taxis (8 percent) and car rental offices (8 percent)
Taking these steps can help reduce the risk of identity theft while traveling:
- Password-protect smartphones and other electronic devices
- Create strong passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols on sensitive accounts accessible through electronic devices
- Avoid public Wi-Fi when possible; create your own Wi-Fi with a portable router and SIM card
- Delay social media posts that indicate you’re out of town; wait until you’re back from your trip to share your travel adventures
- Choose to pay with a credit card versus debit card; credit cards often offer better fraud protection
- Bank at the branch — ATMs in high-traffic tourist areas may put you at risk for skimming
- Alert your bank of your travel plans to avoid account holds and hassles
- Avoid traveling with unnecessary items, such as Social Security cards or unneeded credit cards
- Disable geotagging on all cameras
About the survey
This survey was conducted online by Edelman Berland on behalf of Experian from June 2, 2014, through June 5, 2014, among 1,000 adults ages 18 years and older residing throughout the United States. The national study focused on issues related to identity theft and identity protection while traveling. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.