Don't let identity fraudsters ruin your holiday

By Marianne Curphey

There's nothing like having your identity stolen to spoil a good holiday. ID theft can affect your credit rating and your ability to apply for credit-based products such as credit cards, personal loans and mortgages. What's more, sorting out your financial affairs afterward can be time consuming. But there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Going on holiday requires you to carry a lot of personal information, including credit cards, passports and driving licences. Often, you must keep your passport on you even after you've arrived  -- for example, in order to change money or hire a car -- which means it can't stay safely locked in a hotel safe.

This makes you a prime target for ID fraud. Fraudsters only need three items with your information to steal your identity, says Neil Munroe, external affairs director at the credit reporting agency Equifax. identity-theft

Munroe says holidaymakers are not always as careful abroad as they would be when they are at home, and their passport contains a lot of valuable personal information that a fraudster could use. "ID and credit card fraud is a very real threat for consumers -- especially when they are abroad," he says.

What you need to know:

  1. Guard your PIN and never write it down. Banks will likely cover the cost of identity fraud as long as the fraudsters do not have the PIN. But note that some banks will not pay out if your PIN is too easy to guess -- e.g., 1234.

  2. Tell your credit card company you are going abroad before you go. Some card issuers try to prevent ID theft by blocking cards when they're used in a new location. You don't want to find your card refused when you're far from home.

  3. If you notice unusual account activity or you find mysterious charges on your credit card statement when you return home, contact your card provider immediately. You are generally only responsible for the first £50 of costs charged to your card if it is lost, stolen or misused.

  4. If you are concerned you may be a victim of ID fraud or theft, get a copy of your credit report and check to make sure.

  5. Always remember to report the loss or theft of identification documents or credit cards as soon as possible. "It is a good idea to keep a note in a separate place of [the issuers'] phone numbers so that you can call them in an emergency," says David Black, banking specialist with Consumer Intelligence, which conducts consumer surveys and benchmarks price and service performance. Your card provider or bank may be able to release emergency funds for you, Black says.

  6. Do not give strangers personal information, including your contact details.

  7. If you use an internet café to access social networks or online bank accounts, ensure you protect your passwords.

Joanne Leahy, spokeswoman for the credit reference agency Experian, says you should think in advance about how much information you give away about yourself and your whereabouts via social networking. Regularly posting photos of yourself in foreign places tells people you aren't at home and could make you an easier target for identity fraud.

"If you limit your network to close friends and family and people you know and trust, that is OK, but if you have added people you don't know, then you may not be able to trust them," she warns. "It is relatively easy to build up quite a detailed picture of someone via social networking and other internet searches. There is probably more information about you freely available on the internet than you realise."

See related: Four credit card problems that can ruin a holiday, Credit card travel insurance could protect you from holiday nightmares

Published: 9 August 2013