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Tips for Protecting Your Identity While Traveling

May 9, 2012

Amy Bertrand, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 09, 2012

Summer is just around the corner, and for many of us that means summer vacations. One thing we all need to think about more is safety, and protecting our identity, while we are away from home.

I recently was sent some tips from ProtectMyID ( that it would be nice to share.

1. Keep a record. If your wallet and everything in it were suddenly missing, you'd need to know what you had lost. In a personal notebook you keep in a secure place at home, write down all of the information from the front and back of your credit, debit, driver's license, medical insurance and other important cards. Be sure to update the list as needed. This will help you make the appropriate calls following a theft.

2. Limit your cards. What you don't carry in your wallet is just as important as what you do carry. For preemptive protection, only carry what you need on a daily basis. If you have multiple credit cards, only carry the one you use most often. Don't write PINs or passwords on the back of your credit or debit cards or on pieces of paper you keep in your wallet.

3. Protect your SSN. Your Social Security number shouldn't be on anything you regularly carry in your wallet. If any of your identification cards from a school, library or gym use your SSN as your member number, ask the organization for a randomly selected number and a new card. Be sure to shred the old one. Carry your actual Social Security card as infrequently as possible. If you need it to confirm your identity, be sure to return it to its safe storage place as soon as you can.

4. Make the calls. As soon as you're certain that your wallet or important cards are missing, call the issuers of your credit, debit, medical and drivers license cards. Notify them of the situation and ask for a new account or identification number. Verify that your old numbers are no longer active. Even if your wallet is returned, you can't know for certain that someone hasn't written down your card numbers to use at a later time.

5. File a police report. If identity theft does result from a lost wallet or stolen wallet, a police report filed at the time of theft will establish credibility. Even if you are traveling, file a report with local law enforcement. Always ask for a copy of the report for your personal records.

6. Contact the credit bureaus. A thief may find enough information in your wallet to open new accounts or simply use your existing cards to commit fraud. By placing fraud alerts with the three national credit bureaus, you can help prevent new accounts from being opened in your name without your express permission.

7. Watch your account statements. Checking for the signs of identity theft is essential in the months following a lost wallet or stolen wallet. Carefully review each account statement, including your explanation of benefits (EOB) letters from your medical insurer. Look for purchases, transactions or services you didn't authorize or receive. If you suspect fraud, call the number on your statement immediately.

8. Review your credit reports. Reviewing your monthly statements will only identify fraud on your existing accounts. To identify new accounts fraudulently opened in your name, be sure to review your credit reports regularly - especially in the months following a lost wallet or stolen wallet. A new account that you didn't open and don't control is a serious threat to your credit and identity.

9. Learn from the experience. If you've already dealt with a lost wallet or stolen wallet, be sure you're prepared to handle the same situation if it were to happen again. Use the tips on this page and consider signing up for identity theft protection that combines daily credit monitoring with advanced detection and support features.

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