So you’re having a great time on vacation when you attempt to pay for a meal or a souvenir only to learn that your purchase is denied.


The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is a time when millions of Americans will begin taking summer vacations, and all too many unwittingly will enable ID theft criminals to steal personal information and use it.

Much like commercial pilots who conduct extensive pre-flight checks to make sure they don’t have in-flight problems, I encourage you to conduct a pre-vacation “ID theft check-up.” ID-theft criminals will be targeting your personally identifiable information such as your credit card, debit card, passport, driver’s license, frequent flier and hotel guest program numbers while you’re on vacation.

No. 1 on your check-up should be social media, as it’s a big problem when you or your kids leave a vacation trail on social media by posting updates and photos. This enables ID-theft criminals by telling them the best time to rob your home — because you’re away. Where possible, you should turn off your location settings and delay the posting of your vacation photos until you return home, especially if those photos contain geographical information (geotagging).

Second, assume you’re a ID-theft scam target. That means be on the lookout for scams that involve ID theft via pharming, phishing, pre-texting, skimming, spoofing, spyware, and vishing or voice phishing.

Your third check-up reminder is that the most common of the above scams is phishing, including websites promoting free vacations, financial institution phishing (fake bank websites), fake job phishing (fake job offers) and voice phishing (fake caller ID and fake customer service representatives calling you pretending to be with companies you have a relationship with).

Lastly and as a reminder, ID theft is more than a financial event. ID theft can also affect your children, drivers license, employment, government benefits and medical benefits.

Here is an ID-theft check-up vacation checklist for you to share with family and friends:

  • U.S. Postal Service mail should be put on hold, or arrange for your mail to be collected by a trusted family member or friend.
  • Newspaper deliveries should be put on hold or designated for charity.
  • Schedule on-site house or apartment visit by a trusted family member or friend.
  • Use just one credit card and one debit card to minimize risk.
  • Password-protect your smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.
  • Pay cash at gas stations or use your credit/debit card inside to minimize the risk of credit/debit card skimming.
  • Do not let your debit card out of your sight as unscrupulous servers can skim your card without your knowledge.
  • Use caution with wireless Internet connections; most Wi-Fi networks are not secure.
  • Keep your receipts and reconcile them with your credit and debit card statements.
  • Never leave documents such as registration/insurance in the glove compartment when valet parking.
  • Use hotel safes and/or room safes to secure valuables while you are outside your hotel room.
  • Call your financial institution and credit card company to let them know the dates of your family vacation, as they will monitor your accounts for irregular activity and unauthorized transactions.

Mark’s most important: ID theft criminals love when you’re on vacation, as many people forget to be ID theft vigilant. Take action to avoid helping criminals make you a victim by using my ID theft vacation checklist.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at

This article was originally published on and republished with the author’s permission.

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