Your Money ; Scam Alert
; Save a Buck
9 ways to avoid ID theft when you travel
Anti-Hacking Packing By Sid Kirchheimer
When you hit the road for vaca- tion, don’t let crooks hit you. Here are nine simple tips to
reduce the risk of identity theft.
1. Alert your credit card providers.
Before you leave, let them know when, where
and how long you’ll be traveling. This helps
fraud departments stop bogus charges if
your plastic is used where you are not—
and reduces the risk that your cards will
be frozen due to “unusual activity” when
you use them far from home.
2. Stop your mail. Or have a neighbor
collect it. A full mailbox—especially with
bank statements and credit card bills—can
be a treasure trove for hackers and identity
thieves (and suggests easy pickings for a
home burglar). Pick up forms to hold or
forward mail at any post office. Also, stop
the newspaper, and don’t broadcast your
travel plans on social networking websites.
3. Weed out your wallet. Pickpockets
love tourist destinations, so take only essential identifiers, like your driver’s license,
and just two credit cards—one to carry, another to be locked in a hotel room safe in
case your wallet is pilfered. Don’t carry your
Social Security card in your wallet—ever. Men, keep your wallet in a
buttoned breast pocket or buttoned
pants pocket. Women, wear a handbag, with wide straps and locked
clasps, diagonally across the chest—
and don’t hang it over the door when
you use a public bathroom.
4. Leave your checkbook home. You shouldn’t
need it if you have credit cards. Leave your bills and
private papers home, too.
5. Consider a temporary credit freeze. A freeze
denies access to your credit history, so ID thieves
can’t open accounts in your name while you’re away,
but it doesn’t stop you from using your credit card.
Setting up a freeze through the three big credit-reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian and Trans-Union—is a tedious job and may cost you money;
it’s best considered only for extra protection during
6. Carry a spare. In addition to your real wallet, carry a throwaway with a few dollars and maybe some
Think twice before
signing up for store
credit cards, no matter how tempting
the rewards. LowCards.com says
such cards may be a bad deal; they
have high interest rates (Sears:
25.24%; Macy’s 24.50%; Office Depot 27.99%). Plus, when you apply,
the issuer makes a “credit inquiry.”
Too many inquiries can lower your
credit score. —Joan Rattner Heilman
Up a Store
old hotel key cards. If you’re accosted, hand
over the spare wallet while keeping the real
McCoy. The thief may see money and plastic,
and be off and running … and so can you.
7. Use safer ATMs. Debit cards are best left at
home, but if you need cash withdrawals, ATMs
in bank lobbies are less vulnerable to devices
that robbers use to capture your card information.
Bank lobbies generally have camera surveillance.
8. Be careful with hotel computers. Don’t access
financial data on hotel or other public computers or
on public Wi-Fi networks. You never know what
identity-stealing software is at work.
9. Beware of “front desk” fraudsters. A late-night phone call to your room from a “clerk” saying
your credit card number is needed again may be a
ruse by an ID thief. Ignore the request and call the
front desk yourself. ;
Now’s the time to score
discounts of up to 50
percent on mattresses,
as retailers clear existing inventory to make room for new
models. It’s also a great time to find
deals on kitchenware and utensils,
with sales aimed at college grads and
newlyweds. And expect good buys on
last year’s patio furniture; grill supplies
such as charcoal and lighter fluid; and
in-season produce such as asparagus,
spinach and rhubarb. —Sid Kirchheimer
; May Is for
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your
Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: BOB STAAKE; BAG, GETTY IMAGES; CREDIT CARD, ALAMY; MASTERFILE; ANDY BAKER/GETTY IMAGES
It might be funny money but it
pays. In many areas, local exchange trading systems, using
alternative currencies, are taking
hold. For example, in Philadelphia,
as a reward for community service and other good works, people
earn “Equal Dollars,” which can be
used to buy goods and services.
For an exchange near you, go to
“list of community currencies in the
; New Way to Pay
aarp.org/bulletin MAY 2012