Tips: Protect Your Identity During Spring Break

As families pack up for a week of fun and relaxation over Spring break, everyone knows to take plenty of sunscreen to protect against sunburn. But it's just as important to take steps to protect against identity theft.

"Identity theft can happen at any time but can be more likely while traveling because you're carrying a lot of sensitive information in a distracting and unfamiliar environment," said Jim Sathre, Senior Vice President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group.

Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information -- such as your Social Security number – and illegally uses it to open accounts or initiate transactions in your name. This can cause financial loss and damage your credit. The most common identity theft occurs when your wallet or purse is stolen, as the thief has access to check cards, IDs and other personal information to make transactions.

Said Sathre, "Identity theft does not have to be the demise of your spring break or upcoming vacation. Take a few simple precautions so you can enjoy your vacation without worry." Sathre recommends taking the following steps when traveling to protect you and your family from identity theft.

  • Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your card with you. If asked for your number, ask why the information is needed.
  • Never leave your personal documents unsecured in a hotel room. This includes statements, checks and legal papers. Many hotels offer a security box in each room. This rule is especially important in foreign countries.
  • Carry the minimum. You do not need to travel with every piece of personal information you own. Only carry necessary credit cards and documents.
  • Beware of your surroundings. When accessing an ATM or using your PIN, beware of your surroundings. Cover your hand when typing in codes.
  • Don't check-in personal information. At airports, never place personal documentation in luggage that you intend to check-in. Once it is checked-in, it is out of your control and sight.
  • Use security measures when carrying money. Reduce the risk of personal information loss and identity theft by consciously using travel accessories like security money belts, security travel purse, security travel bags and money clips.

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