Temperatures and kids’ excitement levels are on the rise, summer travel is right around the corner, and this year AAA says more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) are planning to take family vacations. And chances are, as a result of the sharing economy, and the rise of services from Airbnb to Uber and all the others in between, those vacations look a little different than they did just a few years ago.
Sharing everything from housing to transportation offers great money-saving opportunities, no question, but it also raises new challenges as far as protecting your identity is concerned. According to a recent LifeLock survey, 25 percent of consumers have already been victimized. With nearly 10 million new cases of identity theft each year, that number is only going to climb.
So how do you keep yourself safe this season? By taking precautions before you go—and while you’re on the road.
Which do you think is riskier: leaving your home unlocked for a week or allowing strangers to rent out your home? You might be surprised to hear that a good half of Americans think it’s the former. But get this: 41 percent of Americans admitted to having looked through someone’s personal items when visiting their home. Yes, renting out your home to other travelers (via services like Airbnb) can be a great way to earn extra income, but while you’re away, make sure you aren’t unintentionally sharing information about your personal identity. Identity theft can be just as damaging as a break-in. Before you head out, tidy up and lock away documents and personal possessions, such as your Social Security cards, birth certificates, bills and banking statements.
If you’re looking to dodge airport parking fees or rental car costs, ridesharing services, like Uber, Lyft and Via, can cut costs. That is, unless you leave valuable information behind. LifeLock found that 24 percent of people have left wallets or phones in taxis or ridesharing services. Make sure you always check the seat before you hop out so that someone doesn’t drive off with your personally identifiable information.
A pile of newspapers and an overflowing mailbox both say, “Hey! I’m not home.” Mail theft can lead to identity theft (and not just by strangers). Despite these risks, 37 percent of Americans are unlikely to put their mail on hold with when they go on vacation. To avoid “familiar fraud” (i.e. fraud committed by people who know you), call your post office and newspaper and have them place holds on your mail and newspapers instead of asking a neighbor or friend to do the job. Also, alert your bank and credit card companies that you’re going out of town, and more specifically, where you’re going. Doing so prevents the embarrassing scenario of having your debit or credit cards denied while you’re traveling.
As tempting as it is to live tweet, Instagram or post your fabulous vacation on social media, don’t. Because in addition to sharing the cool things you’re doing, you’re also sharing the fact that you’re not home and perhaps not paying attention to your financial accounts, either. Instead, post #latergrams. Wait until you get home to post the details of your adventures. As they say, better late than never.
There’s a lot to be said about taking advantage of the sharing economy—and the benefits it brings to our lives, including our summer vacations. That said, with any activity that may expose your personal information, use caution. Even if the sharing economy saves you money and gives you more travel options, if you lose your identity on your trip, it’ll be a bad vacation.
With Kelly Hultgren