Identity Theft Doesn't Take Vacations
ProtectMyID™'s new survey data reveals vacationers are not taking necessary precautions to protect themselves from identity theft
IRVINE, Calif., June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Experian's ProtectMyID™, a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution, recently commissioned a survey(1) to understand if summer travelers will be taking the necessary steps to protect their identities before heading on vacation. The results showed that many people are still vulnerable to identity theft.
"The survey results were very telling about the many ways your identity can be exposed when you travel," said Jennifer Leuer , senior vice president of Experian Consumer Direct, which owns ProtectMyID. "What people don't realize is that thieves wait for summer vacation, too — not to take in some beautiful sights, but to take unsuspecting travelers' information."
Identity theft is a real risk and one that is amplified during the summer months. Survey results indicated that, whether booking flights at home, logging on at a Wi-Fi hotspot in the airport or surfing the Web in a hotel room, people can put their information at risk if their connection is not secure. Other findings indicated that an alarming number of people are not protecting their sensitive documents before leaving on vacation. In fact, 76 percent of consumers do not place personal items in a safe or safety deposit box when they depart for their trip.
ProtectMyID provides members, such as those who embark on travel adventures, with multiple layers of defense against identity theft. Key product features include: Surveillance Alerts™, scanning the Internet daily for potentially fraudulent use of members' personal information, access to a dedicated Identity Theft Resolution Agent should the need arise, and notification if a change of address action is initiated, a common practice among identity thieves.
"Many identity thieves know peak travel times and simply break into empty homes in search of information," said Linda Foley , founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "Think about where your bank statements, Social Security cards, and other important documents are right now. If they're not secure, you're at a higher risk for identity theft."
Additional results indicated that enterprising identity thieves who monitor social networks or online activity will find plenty of victims. About one-fifth of all survey respondents post their travel plans to social networking sites, and the number increases in the 18-to-34 demographic. Survey trends also showed the bulk of travelers staying connected while on vacation, with a disturbing number accessing public Wi-Fi, increasing their personal data's vulnerability.
"The summer months are traditionally peak travel times," said Wendy Sabins , senior vice president of the Automobile Club of Southern California, which offers a ProtectMyID membership benefit. "We all should relax while we're on vacation, but planning ahead is the key to enjoying a trip. That should include safeguarding your identity before you leave and taking steps on vacation to ensure you have a monitoring service in place that will notify you if something does happen."
Whether on a staycation or a far away vacation, following are ProtectMyID summer travel tips that people can do themselves as way to better protect their identities:
- Wi-Fi hotspots are a hotbed for identity thieves. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents use public Wi-Fi in some capacity while traveling.
- When available, use a hard-wired connection or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot rather than public Wi-Fi. A DSL connection is typically more secure than any free Wi-Fi network you may find in a hotel business center or lobby.
- A weak password, while using free Wi-Fi can make your computer more susceptible to invasion. Strengthen your password by making it longer and including an array of symbols, letters and numbers.
- If you plan on using Wi-Fi provided by your hotel, ask what security measures are taken to protect guests' information.
- Beware of broadcasting travel plans. Almost 50 percent of survey respondents between the ages of 18 to 34 post to their social media pages with updates on their travel whereabouts.
- While managing privacy settings is a great way to control who views your page, you can never be certain who is reading about your whereabouts.
- Postpone posting pictures of your adventures until you return home. Posting photos in real time are an indicator that your home is vacant, welcoming intruders.
- Lighten your load before hitting the road.
- Cash or credit cards are the best forms of payment while traveling. Go through your wallet, purse and/or briefcase and remove any unnecessary personal items such as Social Security card, bills, extra credit cards, library card and check book.
- Protect these items from home intruders by locking them in a personal safe or a safety deposit box.
- Book travel on secure sites. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents aged 18 to 34 usually book travel via online third party sites.
- While third-party sites may offer better prices, some deals are too good to be true. If it is a boutique travel site, be sure to do your research. Check for any feedback on the site, such as in online forums, blogs or groups.
- When you click on the page to pay, ensure that it's a secure site. The URL should begin with "https."
About Experian's ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID.com is a Website owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com.
Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients in more than 80 countries. The company helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2011 was US$4.2 billion. Experian employs approximately 15,000 people in 41 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.
(1) Study was conducted in March 2011 by Impulse Research Group
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