Nelligan: Protect your identity — and finances — on summer vacation (column)
July 17, 2018
We hear about it all the time — a friend or neighbor has his or her wallet or purse stolen while on vacation, turning what should have been a rejuvenating time away from home into a nightmare.
These days, identity theft can occur from more than just a stolen wallet. Cybersecurity breaches have the potential to put all our financial information at risk. In fact, according to a 2017 Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll, nine in 10 Morgan Stanley investors report being impacted by data security issues in some form. Given the growing frequency and severity of these cyberattacks, it's no surprise that cybersecurity remains top-of-mind for many investors.
Taking a few precautionary steps before leaving home this summer is not only prudent, it may help ensure your vacation is everything you are dreaming it will be. Take heed of these suggestions to keep your finances protected before, during and after vacation:
• Consider identity theft protection. Identity theft protection can provide advanced detection and notification, as well as ongoing regular monitoring across all your financial accounts.
• Use institutions that provide enhanced user authentication. Ask your bank or financial institution about their investment in cybersecurity, fraud-prevention technology and proactive account activity review.
• Notify your bank of travel plans. Not only can your financial institutions help monitor for anything out of the ordinary, letting them know you are going on vacation may prevent your accounts from being frozen due to out-of-state charges, something no one wants to deal with while out of town.
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• Have a plan in place for mail. Stacked up mail is a revealing sign that nobody is home, presenting an opportunity for thieves to steal personal and financial information. Be sure to place a hold on your mail or have a neighbor collect it while you're away.
• Bring only the bare minimum. Carry perhaps just one credit or debit card and some cash. Make sure you are not carrying documents or papers that contain critical information such as Social Security numbers. The less sensitive information you walk around with, the less likely it is to be compromised.
• Use public Wi-Fi and public computers carefully. Public Wi-Fi may be your only option to access the internet while on vacation. If you can, then avoid entering any financial information including your birthdate, address or account numbers while online. Be sure to maintain anti-virus and anti-malware software, create strong passwords and use privacy settings. When using a public or shared computer, close out and log off all web pages after you are done.
• Monitor your financial accounts. Consider enrolling in electronic alerts, if your bank or financial institution provides it, to identify potential fraudulent charges. Review all bank transactions, credit reports and account statements when you return home from vacation. Notify your financial institution as soon as possible of any suspicious activity. Cancel or freeze cards if you notice any unauthorized activity.
Identity theft is all too common a problem and something we should all be aware of. Implementing a few proactive steps to protect and safeguard your personal finances while on vacation can make all the difference.
Jeff Nelligan is a financial advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver. He can be reached at 303-925-9621 and firstname.lastname@example.org.