Identity theft is a real problem for travelers who often look like easy victims. Scammers see opportunity, but with a little vigilance, you'll be fine. Next time you set out to explore far from home, travel smart by taking steps to make sure your vital documents, credit cards, or other information don't go on a long-distance excursion without you.
Step 1: Go Anyway
Being aware of the risks doesn't mean you have to be afraid to travel. The benefits far outweigh any risk. Your identity could be stolen from your suburban home in the States just as easily as from your vacation spot in Tahiti. Just take a few extra precautions before you pack and while you're on your trip.
Step 2: Before You Leave Home
Before you pack your bikini or swim trunks, unpack your purse or wallet. In other words, remove unnecessary identification and documents like social security cards, bills, and credit cards you don't plan to use. As WeekendTravelShow.com suggests, take only the essentials: your passport, possibly a driver's license if you're renting a vehicle, and whatever ID your cruise ship requires.
Step 3: Before You Leave the Ship
When your ship pulls into port, don't take all your important travel documents with you when you go exploring. If you don't want to leave your belongings in your state room, consider buying a money belt or another device that keeps important docs safely out of reach of would-be thieves.
Step 4: Go Low-Profile
There are lots of good reasons not to advertise the fact that you're an American tourist, as Cruise Critic points out. At best, that loud Hawaiian T-shirt and flashy jewelry can hinder your ability to really soak up the local culture; locals will immediately tag you as a tourist, and restaurants and shops will tend to charge you more. At worst, scammers could see you as a perfect opportunity for identity theft, pursesnatching, pickpocketing, or some other variation of the same crime.
Step 5: Stay Smart About Your Own Identity Protection
This is a smart step whether you're sailing the open seas or not. By keeping a close eye on all your credit card statements—especially any accounts that you don't often use—and remaining aware of your credit score, you can stop identity thieves before they get far. Identity theft protection from services such as LifeLock makes it easy to stay on top of your credit and receive an immediate warning in case of questionable charges.
Step 6: Connect Wisely
This applies to almost every situation, but in this case, use your smartphone or tablet wisely. Free Wi-Fi doesn't necessarily mean safe and secure Wi-Fi, so when you're using the connection at a local café, coffee shop, or tourist trap, don't transfer secure information over the airwaves. Now is not the time to log in to view your credit card statement. Treat those connections as though every keystroke is being logged.