Protecting Your Identity – Tips for the Travelling Fed

Goal: Protect your identity at home and on the road.

How To Protect Your Identity:

1. Photocopy the front and back of every card in your wallet. Keep these copies someplace safe at home.

2. When travelling, remove everything except your driver’s license, regular credit or debit card and one backup for emergencies.

3. Remove pictures from your wallet of people who live at the address on your license.

4. Check one of your credit reports for free every four months at

5. Don’t give out your address or Social Security Number to anyone who has contacted you, only people with whom you have initiated contact.

The Why:

Have you ever seen the trick where the magician puts his lovely assistant into a box, the box falls apart and another woman is standing in her place? This classic trick has not only shocked and amazed millions of on-lookers over the years but is the structure for most identity theft schemes today.

Identity theft is a fast-money game. Most thieves are into the smash-and-grab: swipe the card, run it up before anyone knows it’s gone and get rid of it someplace public. This modus operandi has morphed beyond amateur pickpockets into a sophisticated underground industry where identity hunters buy and sell the names and social security numbers of their next targets. With the black market honing in on responsible bill-payers, what’s a fed to do? Protect yourself where you are most vulnerable – on the road.

Mobile feds who are shipped across the country and across the world need to pay special attention to their credit. If someone goes joyriding in your good name there are domestic law enforcement and credit bureaus willing and able to help. If your information gets taken outside U.S. borders the crime may be outside U.S. jurisdiction. Aside from having your credit card surgically attached to your body there are ways to travel freely and protect yourself.

Why not designate a travel-only credit card and checking account? Look for a bank with low ATM fees and currency conversion rates. The travel checking account should be from a bank separate from your regular personal bank.

Before the trip transfer the amount of cash you expect to spend on the trip from your regular checking account to the travel account. Let the bank and credit card company know when and where you will be going so they can block fraudulent charges. By only spending the cash in the travel checking account you may also keep from overspending on your trip.

Remove any personally identifiable information from your wallet or purse outside the travel credit card, debit card and emergency contact information. Think about it – if someone stole your wallet would you want them to have your social security number, home address and pictures of your kids?

Taking a few minutes to exercise these precautions will save you a world of hurt: cleaned-out checking accounts, bounced checks, delinquent debt payments, a demolished credit score and a police report. By separating your travel accounts from your regular accounts, if something does happen, your good name will stay intact.

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