Identity theft can happen to anyone, anywhere. Whether you’re shopping online or paying for gas, the possibility of becoming a victim of identity theft is more and more present in today’s society. However, if you’re out on the road traveling long distances for your job and paying for goods and services every step of the way, you’re at a heightened risk of becoming an identity theft victim. You have to use your card more often and would-be thieves know that you may have a hard time tracking down where the theft occurred since you travel so quickly. Stationary workers have a more regular routine and can narrow down where identity theft took place a bit more easily. But when you travel all over, you may have a more difficult time figuring out where the theft took place, and thieves are aware of this. So how can you protect yourself out on the road? Here are some tips that can help you protect yourself on your next long haul.
Don’t carry your Social Security Card with you. Many people think that having their card with them makes it handier if that information is requested of them. However, it also makes it handier for thieves to lift your Social Security Number (SSN), and that’s all they usually need to steal your identity. Memorize your SSN and always question anyone who asks you for it. Ask them why they need it and how the information will be used. Most of the time it’s not necessary. If given the option, run your debit card as a credit card so you can avoid entering your PIN. Plenty of technology exists today that allows the person behind you in line to steal your PIN, so not having to enter it in the first place can help you keep that information safe.
Another unsafe practice you should avoid is keeping a list of PINs or passwords with you. While this might be helpful for you, it opens you up to the possibility of identity theft. All it takes is one oversight or one accidental drop of those PIN numbers and somebody will have access to all of your information.
Additionally, if you have the option of running your card through the point-of-sale yourself, do so. The fewer eyes and hands there are on your card and card number, the better. When entering your PIN, if you must, always run your hand across all the numbers on the keypad afterward. This makes it much more difficult for would-be identity thieves to use thermal technology to detect which buttons you touched to enter your PIN number.
Finally, don’t leave papers with your personally identifiable information (PII) showing in your vehicle. This includes your full name, address, credit card numbers, date of birth – even your zip code. If you have to carry certain paperwork with you, keep it out of sight at all times.
The more frequently you check your bank statements and online bank records, the faster you’ll be able to stop any fraudulent activity. Additionally, checking your records often will help you narrow down where the theft took place if one does occur. Save paper receipts or a record of the amount you spent at each location. Many cases of identity theft include instances of an increase in the amount of a transaction. This is particularly crafty since charges from places you don’t recognize will alert you to fraudulent activity, but a simple change in the amount at a place you do recognize might not warrant as much suspicion.
Finally, always be aware of your surroundings. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to go through the motions when conducting regular business. You rush through a drive-through window, get gas without paying much attention, and make convenience store purchases without so much as glancing at the person running your payment through. It’s natural. But slow down long enough to take a look around and note whether or not you see suspicious activity. Be wary of things like a cashier who moves your credit card out of sight. Sometimes people will take rubbings of your card number and note your expiration date and security code. If people are fiddling with devices that look suspicious, loiter near payment processing areas, or approach a gas pump on foot right after you leave, you might have a reason to call the authorities. It’s better to report suspicious activity and be wrong than to avoid reporting it and become a victim of identity theft.
Life on the road can be hectic, and it moves quickly. You have places to go, things to do, and deadlines to meet. But it’s still important to keep tabs on your bank records, personal information, and the activity around you in order to limit your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. If you travel across state lines frequently, it can be difficult to know who to contact in case of identity theft. However, you should probably start by contacting an attorney in the state you believe the theft happened. He or she can direct you to the right place or help you obtain the best outcome given the specifics of your case.