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Vacation security tips can help keep travelers safe

JONESBORO — Warm weather means it’s time to go on vacation. But it’s also the time when scammers are on the rise and targeting travelers for identity theft.

Going on vacation means kicking back and relaxing, right? Sleeping in or easing up on schedules is fine, but the Better Business Bureau advises travelers to stay on guard against identity theft.

Tourist destinations are hot spots for identity thieves, pickpockets and other scammers looking for travelers that are easily distracted and usually unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Wi-Fi networks in hotels, restaurants and airports usually have very poor security, making it easy for scammers to get a hold of personal and financial information of unsuspecting travelers.

Travelers can protect themselves by staying alert to their surroundings and putting wallets and travel documents where thieves would have a hard time stealing them, like in an inside coat pocket or travel wallet worn under clothes. Be especially careful in crowded areas or on buses or other public transportation.

Other ways travelers can protect themselves include:

• Avoid announcing travel plans on social media. Thieves could target empty homes for a burglary while people are away.

Check bags and wallets. Not using a checkbook or address book? Leave them at home. They become clutter and if lost, travelers become a target for identity theft.

• Stop mail and newspapers while away. An overflowing mailbox can be a tempting target for someone who wants to steal personal information. Piled up papers could tip off thieves that a home is unoccupied.

• Remove unnecessary documents like library cards or other items that contain personal information from wallets. Bring only what is needed.

• Set up a travel alert for credit card accounts. Travelers may also consider putting a credit freeze on accounts to prevent someone from opening accounts while they’re away.

• Leave the computer at home. If it is a must to have while on vacation, update anti-virus or anti-spyware programs before leaving home, and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to access financial accounts. Never leave a computer unattended in a public place.

• Use only bank ATMs. Avoid those placed in convenience stores or in crowded areas, which may have poor security or allow thieves to look over users shoulders. Protect pin pads when using debit cards.

• Create a password for cell phones. Consider downloading a GPS locator to use in case a phone is lost or stolen.

• Avoid putting full name and address on luggage tags. Use only your name and a phone number.

• Tear up or shred boarding passes before they are discarded. The personal information on them could be used by thieves to steal an identity

If anyone is the victim of theft or a wallet or cell phone is lost while traveling, make sure to notify banks, credit card companies or cell phone providers of the loss. Consider making a list of customer service phone numbers and/or account numbers that is kept separate from a wallet but not in checked luggage. If traveling abroad, travelers may also want to bring a copy of their passport.