Why is Guarding Against Identity Theft While Travelling Important?

Travelling or not, identity theft is not a joke! Many people suffer the consequences of identity theft leaving them distraught and often penniless. However, these incidents feel worse while travelling, when you have limited funds and not many to help you in a foreign city or country.

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    What is Identity Theft?

    Simply put, identity theft is when a fraudster or criminal steals the personal information of a person without their permission.

    Very often, this information is used for sinister or harmful things like blackmailing, extortion, or making unauthorised purchases using your credit card. However, the term is very broad and there are many types of identity theft and the ways people are targeted.

    Some of the most identity thefts include data breaches, malware activities, voice phishing and a lot more. While this blog deals exclusively with the risks faced while travelling, we will focus on the most common types of identity theft during a trip.

    What is the Importance of Guarding Against Identity Theft?

    While we like to believe that something like identity theft wouldn't really happen to us, you'd be surprised to know the actual figures. Millions of people across the world are victims of cybercrimes, especially identity theft. Take a look at some of the biggest risks of ID theft while travelling:

    Harmful Financial Breaches

    While banks do a great job in monitoring your transactions or notifying you of any unauthorised transactions that were attempted, this is the best they can do.

    People who have access to your personal information, birthdays, mailing address etc. can often bypass minor checks and cause you considerable financial harm. They can easily do this by pretending to be you or by having access to your saved passwords.

    Tarnished Reputation

    Another reason why you should take your personal data’s security seriously is the sheer damage criminals can cause to your otherwise clean slate. From making illegal black market purchases to carrying out illegal activities under your name, the list can go on.

    This can even get people into trouble with government authorities as these crimes were committed, at least on paper, by you. Until your name is in the clear, you can suffer judgments from others, loss of income etc. depending on the scale of the felony under your identity.

    What's more, in case of fraudulent loans or tax returns, your credit score will lower considerably. This can cause a lot of issues, especially while filing for a loan or buying a good credit card.

    Emotional Distress

    The risk of identity theft is highest with those not taking enough precautions to secure their sensitive information. Other than financial loss, facing crimes due to identity theft is a hard situation to be in. The despair is a lot more when you have been a victim while on an international vacation; often in a place with language barriers and zero to few familiar faces to help you.

    If you’re not careful enough during your trip, you can be left stranded in an unfamiliar country without access to your own funds, phone and a lot more.

    Identity Theft Risks While Travelling

    With advancing technology, crimes are getting sophisticated and often cause a lot of harm to unsuspecting people. Let us quickly understand the different types of identity theft and what can you do if you fall prey to one of these:

    Credit Card Theft

    Among the most common types of identity theft while travelling, your credit card can easily be stolen and used to make unauthorised purchases. This theft can be physical (your wallet was stolen) or through credit card skimming, or a data breach of your stored information

    What Can You Do:

    • Keep your cards in a secure place where they can't fall out or easily be snatched.
    • Make sure to enable pin or OTP based transactions so that it's harder to use the lost credit card.
    • If you notice your wallet or credit card missing, immediately contact your bank and ask them to block your credit card.
    • If you're abroad, you can either use a spare forex or credit card that is often issued by many banks.

    You can also inform your insurer about your situation and ask for an emergency cash advance.

    Mobile Phone Theft

    While smartphones have surely made our lives better, these are full of our sensitive personal information that can automatically deliver your details without your fingerprints or password.

    Many applications store your passwords and personal details including credit or debit card information along with passwords. All this information is more than enough for any miscreant to misuse.

    What Can You Do:

    • Your only barrier in keeping your phone safe is a secure passcode.
    • Set up biometric screening and never store passwords in plain texts anywhere.
    • However, also make sure to carry your smartphone securely so that the chances of losing it are minimal.
    • In case your phone is lost or stolen, file a police report immediately.
    • Deactivate your SIM cards and erase all the data remotely so that there is no data breach.

    Meanwhile, don't forget to secure your online accounts, and unlink them from the lost device.

    Card Skimming

    ATM card skimmers are basically gadgets designed to look like it is a part of the ATM machine or swipe machine. These devices skim through your cards and collect the numbers along with your pin codes, which can be replicated into counterfeit cards.

    Criminals use your card information to make unauthorised purchases and can cause significant damage to your financial and emotional health.

    What Can You Do:

    • Don't swipe your card too soon; do a quick scan and ensure the machine hasn't been tampered with.
    • Check for crooked, loose parts or damaged graphics in the machine.
    • Always block the keypad with your other hand while entering the PIN. If the keys seem too hard to press, don't use that machine.
    • Prefer using mobile wallets which are very common now.
    • Always monitor your bank account and get a monthly statement if you're going on a long trip.

    It is very important to take your data security seriously and take necessary steps to protect it. Meanwhile, don’t forget to buy international travel insurance with the appropriate coverage. Thankfully, many travel insurance plans have started offering benefits related to card protection, purchase protection, wallet protection and a lot more.

    Wrapping it Up,

    Criminals thrive by preying on such vulnerable people who don't have enough idea about the risks and consequences of ID theft. Many travel insurance companies in India offer coverage for loss caused due to identity theft, such as misuse of PIN or fraudulent internet-based transactions, legal expenses, lost wages etc. This will ensure that your trip goes well and you don’t have to tackle the consequences alone.

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