Traveling abroad? Here’s how to protect your identity

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Traveling is all about experiences. Seeing new places. Trying new foods. Meeting different people.

But there are some experiences you can do without—like getting your identity stolen. Unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility for unwary travelers.

With a little prep work, however, you can protect your personal information while abroad and prevent your dream vacation from turning into a financial nightmare. Here’s what to do:


Lock your smartphone

Basically, your phone holds your entire life—emails and texts, photos of your home and family, your boarding pass or flight itinerary. In the wrong hands, it could be a source of personal financial information for someone who won’t hesitate to exploit it. Screen lock might not stop the most diligent and savvy crooks, but it will block most people from accessing your info. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords and watch out for people who might try to look over your shoulder to see what you’re typing.


Pass on public Wi-Fi

Popping into a local café for some free Wi-Fi might be tempting, but it makes you an easy target for hackers. Wireless networks are notoriously unsafe for all kinds of reasons. If you absolutely must use them, take these precautions:

  • Turn off Wi-Fi auto connect while traveling.
  • Choose only password-protected networks.
  • Stick to encrypted websites with “https” in the address.
  • Never do your online banking, shopping or anything else involving your personal information on public Wi-Fi.


Make secure payments

When you pay for purchases with your debit card, you’re essentially handing your account number to a complete stranger. While you’re generally safe in airports and major retail chains, using your debit card anywhere else can be risky. Cash is the safest form of payment since it’s not tied to any of your personal info. If you must use a debit or credit card, it’s generally safer to use your credit card, which typically has more built-in fraud protection than your debit card—plus you won’t have to worry about anyone cleaning out your checking account.


Approach ATMs with caution

One of the benefits of banking with OCCU is that you get access to thousands of trusted credit union ATMs throughout the country. When you’re traveling abroad, however, it’s not quite as simple. Some hackers use fake or modified ATMs to skim people’s credit or debit card info. If you must withdraw cash, choose an ATM connected to a local bank or credit union.


Let us know your plans

One thing you can be sure of when you travel is that OCCU will be watching your back the whole time. We monitor activity 24/7 to protect you from possible fraud. In fact, we’re so committed to your financial security that we suggest notifying us in advance about your travel plans so we don’t flag your purchases abroad as suspicious. If we spot unusual activity on your account, it could trigger a security alert and result in a temporary hold on your card to protect you from potential loss. That’s great news if your card actually does get stolen, but not so great when you’re trying to buy souvenirs.

Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or it’s your first time abroad, traveling the world can become part of your identity. We’ll help you keep that identity safe as you roam.