Protecting Your Identity While Traveling

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You've packed your bags, reserved your hotel and bought tickets to the big festival. You've printed out your boarding pass, and you're ready for your big trip, right?

There may be a couple of things left to do. Even though traveling is fun, there are certain things you can do to ensure your safety, especially your identity. It can be easy to fall victim to identity theft while on the road. With as many people that will be handling your credit and debit cards while traveling, it's smart to pay attention to every transaction.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent identity theft from ruining your vacation.

Before you leave

Taking the proper steps to protect your identity starts before you leave your home. First, contact your local post office to hold your mail until you return. Doing this will limit your exposure to people rummaging through your mailbox while you're away and protecting any personal information that may be in your mail.

Leaving your Social Security card at home in a safe place or in a safety deposit box at your bank is another tip to limit exposure to personal information. Losing your Social Security card while on the road can have potentially dangerous consequences.

Another tip is to cut back on what's in your wallet. Remove any identification cards or credit cards that you won't need so that if you do lose your wallet on the road, your exposure risk will be minimal.

What to do if your wallet is lost or stolen

If the unthinkable should happen and your wallet is lost or stolen, don't delay action. Immediately call the issuers of your credit card(s), debit card(s), insurance and drivers license cards and cancel what you can. The longer you wait, the more exposure those cards will have.

File a police report with local law enforcement officials. Filing a repost can help establish your credibility if you're cards are used in fraudulent transactions.

As an extra precaution, you should immediately contact the three national credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - to place fraud alerts on your credit report. These alerts might prevent new accounts from being opened in your name.

Once you return home from your trip, study your credit card and other financial account statements for unexplained purchases. If you do suspect fraud, make sure to call the customer service number on your account statement immediately. For BancorpSouth credit card holders, that number is 1-888-797-7711.

You should also order copies of your three credit reports - one from each of the credit bureaus mentioned above. Check for any new credit accounts that someone might have opened in your name without your permission. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three bureaus, so be sure to take advantage of that. If you do notice any suspicious activity on your report, be sure to contact the credit bureaus immediately so that your credit score is not greatly affected.

Traveling should be a fun experience, but identity theft can quickly ruin a dream vacation. Take these steps to make sure that your travel experiences are memorable experiences.