Take steps before hitting the road on vacation
Setting off on a road trip can be an adventure—one you hope to talk about for years to come.
While not all road trips go off without a hitch, being mindful of those with bad intentions can protect you, your family and your belongings.
Becoming a victim of theft thwarts plans to relax and make the trip memorable for all the right reasons. Don’t be an easy mark: Safeguard your vehicle, identity and home, and enjoy the many things you set out to do this summer.
Your vehicle is usually close by when you are on a road trip, so the idea that it could be stolen probably is not a concern—but it should be.
Think of how often your vehicle is unattended: at rest areas, convenience stores, historical sites or amusement parks.
If your vehicle is stolen, your vacation could be wrecked in an instant. And it is not just the vehicle itself. On a road trip, often your car is full of personal necessities that can lure thieves.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, auto theft peaks in the summer, with most vehicle thefts occurring in July and August.
“Wherever your car is parked—whether at a hotel, in a gas station parking lot or even at your own home—you need to take precautions, especially during warmer weather,” says Troy Sandberg, a security expert. “Leaving your windows cracked, even slightly, can be an invitation for theft.”
To avoid becoming a victim of vehicle theft this summer, he says to:
- Identify possible threats. “There are a variety of items that are attractive to thieves: electronics, gas, metal and even the car itself,” says Sandberg. “Take a look at your car and note if any of the above are easily accessible.” Parts of a vehicle can be dissected and sold for scrap, including catalytic convertors and tires.
- Secure your vehicle. Park in well-lit areas. Keep your windows rolled up and doors locked at all times when away from your vehicle. If you have an alarm system, use it, even if you plan to leave the vehicle unattended for only a short time.
- Keep a watchful eye. If you plan to leave town without your vehicle, inform your neighbors or property management and ask them to report suspicious activity around your home and vehicle. Keep your belongings out of sight, and never leave your keys in your vehicle. “Any pedestrian traffic after dark should be treated with in-depth observation,” Sandberg says. “People walking in groups or less populated parts of a property can be a cause for concern.”
It is unnerving to know your home is vulnerable while you are away. According to Farmers Insurance, every 10 seconds an American home is burglarized—and you don’t need to be wealthy to tempt thieves.
Homes with high-tech electronics and jewelry are targets, but all modern conveniences can lure in robbers, including televisions, computers and cameras.
When away from home, Farmers Insurance says to take these precautions:
- Suspend delivery or make sure mail and newspapers are picked up.
- Arrange to have your lawn mowed.
- Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway.
- Put lights, TV and stereo on timers that turn on and off randomly.
- Do not advertise your absence with notes or announcements on voicemail, email, Facebook or Twitter.
- Turn off your telephone ringer.
- Consider installing a motion detector on outside lights.
According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2016 Identity Fraud Report, identity fraud affected 13.1 million consumers in 2015, with $112 billion stolen in the past six years.
While many financial institutions and businesses protect customers when information has been compromised, consumers are still affected.
Becoming a victim of identity theft while on vacation—especially if far from home—can be traumatic.
To safeguard your identity when traveling, Kiplinger suggests:
Inform your credit card company of your travels, especially if you will be out of the country. Financial institutions are cracking down on unusual spending behaviors. Your account could be frozen if your company identifies spending activity outside your normal region.
If you receive an alert about suspicious activity on your cell phone, do not call the number provided or reply by text. This has become a common practice for thieves. Instead, call the number on the back of your credit card.
Rid your wallet of unneeded credit cards or other personal information, such as your Social Security card, and store them in a secure location. Only keep items in your wallet that you will need on vacation. Make copies of those items to use if your wallet is stolen.
Keep your hotel room clear of personal information when you are not there to keep an eye on it.
Be careful using your laptop, the hotel computer and ATMs, which can be rigged with devices that read your personal information.
Check accounts regularly to ensure you are the only one accessing them.