Because you are on the road much of the time, you are more at risk for identity theft than the average person. One of the fastest growing crimes in the country, identity theft occurs when someone uses personal information such as your name, Social Security number or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
If your identity is stolen, you could spend months or years – and much of your money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of your good name and credit record. In the meantime, you may lose job opportunities or be refused loans, education, housing or cars. You may even get arrested for crimes you didn’t commit.
When you’re on the road, you expose yourself in two ways: First, every time you use your credit or debit card, there is potential for theft, either from someone you hand your credit card to or from a receipt you might leave behind. Second, because you are away from home, someone could be rifling through your mailbox looking for personal information.
The good news is, vigilance and a little protection pays off. First, place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have a roommate, employ outside help or have service work done in your home by someone you do not know well. When you’re not at home, have your mail delivered to a post office box or have someone you can trust pick it up. Or install a mailbox like the one Postal Vault offers that allows mail to drop into a secure locked area. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office instead of an unsecured mailbox.
Guard your trash. Identity thieves often sort through trash or recycling bins, looking for information. Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications or offers, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, and expired charge cards.
Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact. Before you divulge any personal information, confirm that you’re dealing with a representative of a legitimate organization.
Anybody can easily become victim to identity theft, especially those of us who travel for a living. Common sense and a little vigilance will go a long way toward keeping our identity to ourselves.