With school ending and the official start to summer around the corner, now is the time of year when we all long for that much-needed vacation. After all, everyone deserves the opportunity to rest, relax, and unwind after what’s felt like an incredibly busy and fast-paced start to the year.
Most of us let our guard down on vacation, but it’s essential to stay diligent when it comes to protecting your finances. It only takes one bit of personal information falling into the wrong hands to transform your ideal getaway into a stressful struggle to mitigate the impacts of identity theft and financial fraud on your portfolio and financial situation.
Here are a few tips:
Only Bring the Minimum
It’s prudent to limit the number of bank cards that you plan to bring along. In fact, I would even recommend cleaning out your purse/wallet before taking a trip. The less you carry, the less that is likely to be compromised should anything go missing. For any bank cards you do plan to carry, remember to notify your bank ahead of time. That way they can proactively monitor for anything suspicious.
Additionally, make it a point to avoid carrying too much cash. You may be able to recoup fraudulent expenses on credit cards, but once cash is gone … it’s gone.
Keeping up with expenses on vacation is often quite difficult. Consider creating a simple log to track all purchases, encompassing everything from dinners to souvenirs. You may also want to save corresponding receipts. These items will eventually serve as a safety net by enabling you to compare and crosscheck against official statements and posted transactions. Anything that does not match up may indicate fraud.
Exercise Caution with Public WiFi
As much as we want to unwind on vacation, many people still require WiFi to check their work email and keep up with personal affairs. Sometimes, public WiFi is the only feasible option. This is certainly fine to utilize, but public WiFi can also be more susceptible to hacking. Therefore, it’s critical that you are cautious when browsing. As a general rule of thumb, avoid checking financial information and logging into accounts that have stored personal data. Additionally, remember to logout completely after utilizing any public computer.
Hold Your Mail
Although the concept of snail mail might seem ancient in today’s digital age, statements, bills, receipts, and other items that arrive via the mail generally contain sensitive tidbits of personal and financial information. And stacked-up mail often indicates that the homeowner is either traveling or not around, essentially inviting those with mal-intentions to have a look around. Stopping mail delivery during vacation only requires one easy call, but you can also have a neighbor grab everything on your behalf. Regardless, you want to create the sense that your home is occupied.
Nobody wants to deal with the headache of financial fraud, especially while traveling on summer vacation. While there is no perfect prevention mechanism, taking added precaution with your personal and financial information is a great place to start.
Mary DiChristofano is a Private Wealth Advisor with Graystone Consulting, a business of Morgan Stanley in Chicago. The information contained in this column is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments.