Summer has always been one of the most popular seasons for travel, and this year is no different. AAA estimates that 43 million Americans traveled on Fourth of July weekend this year, the highest travel volume on record. With more people on the move than ever, it's important to acknowledge an unfortunate but important reality: traveling puts individuals at greater risk for identity theft and fraud.
Why? People on vacation carry more personally identifiable information (PII) with them than usual and travel with more money in their bank accounts, putting a target on their back for cyber criminals.
This summer travel season, follow these simple steps to stay secure no matter where you're traveling:
Leave Important Documents at Home
While it's possible that you'll need your driver's license and passport while traveling, leave other sensitive documents -- social security cards, bank statements and medical documents -- at home. These documents can be easily misplaced or stolen during your trip, which can put you at immediate risk for identity theft.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
Whether you're at the airport, hotel or in a café, avoid using public Wi-Fi. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or your phone's data as a personal hotspot for a more secure connection. You should never enter your credit card information to make purchases over public Wi-Fi, or visit sensitive sites like your bank account. Doing so can expose more information than you intend and significantly increase the risk of identity theft.
Resist the Urge to Share on Social
It may be tempting to share your vacation on social media. But before you click, tweet or post consider this: sharing photos or updates while you're vacationing alerts criminals that you are away from home. To prevent your mail from getting stolen, or worse, a physical break-in to your home, wait until you're back from your trip to share your photos.
Update Everything Before Traveling
Almost every software update provides critical security patches for your devices. Here's one very recent example: in late July, Apple released a system update to fix a bug that allowed hackers to send malware via iMessage. Invest the few minutes it takes to update your devices before you travel. Updating while on the move, over hotel or public Wi-Fi for instance, can significantly increase your chances of downloading malware.
Change Your Passwords When You Return
Coming back from your trip is the perfect time to create new passwords for your accounts. Ensure you're creating long, strong, and unique passwords by using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using easy-to-guess passwords, like "password" or "123456."
Nothing can ruin a vacation quite like a case of identity theft or fraud. Follow these simple, yet vital, security tips to help protect your personal information and stay one step ahead of cyber criminals this summer, and beyond.