Tips to Protect Your Identity This Summer

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We were flying to the Caribbean—no simple task from the West Coast. First we took the red eye to Miami. Then we had a five-hour layover, only to find out our connecting flight had been canceled when tropical storms moved in. While scrambling to find a new flight, I left my billfold in an airport waiting area. And when we decamped to a Miami hotel for the night, I left my phone in the taxi.

I was lucky. When I realized my billfold was missing, I ran back and found it right where I left it. And I was able to use the find-my-phone feature to alert the cabbie to its whereabouts in his backseat. He drove the phone back to me. Had I lost either—or both—identity theft could have soon followed.

I don’t think I’m alone in not thinking clearly when I’m out of my element, particularly after a red eye and when everything seems to be going wrong. But even if you’re a levelheaded, clear-eyed, always-on road warrior, things can happen that are out of your control.

With spring here and the end of the school year in sight, many of us are starting to make travel plans. We’ve rounded up some useful tips to help protect yourself—and your identity—as you hit the road.

Smart travel starts before you leave. At home, make sure to keep your most important documents in a safe place. Use a fireproof safe to protect your personal information and valuables, including your Social Security cards, birth certificates and marriage license.

Protect your smartphone and other devices with a passcode. Should your device get stolen or lost, a passcode will help protect you from theft, unwanted usage charges and misuse of your personal data.

Place a hold on your mail and newspapers while you’re gone. A stack of newspapers at your front door is a give-away that no one is home. And bank statements and credit card offers piling up in your mailbox can quickly become a treasure-trove of information to crooks. The U.S. Postal Service will hold your mail while you’re away and deliver it all at once or hold it for you to pick up when you return. Simply fill out this easy online form.

Be careful when using ATMs. Identity thieves have been known to modify ATMs by adding card skimmer devices to them. Sometimes you can spot these altered card readers by inspection. If parts look loose or not quite right, find another machine or use an ATM inside the bank.

Don’t get lazy when it’s time to walk out of your hotel room. Lock up your valuables in the hotel safe. Stow your passport, financial cards and IDs securely.

As it turns out, a LOT can go wrong when you’re on the road. But the more you think about it and plan ahead, the better off you’ll be. Oh, and don’t leave your billfold in an airport waiting area or your phone in a cab! You might not be as lucky as I was, and even if you are, you don’t need the grief from your travel companions. Trust me on this.


Learn more about a special offer from LifeLock for PTA members and families.

Cory Warren is the blog editor of LifeLock UnLocked.


Going to the Pool or Beach? Water Safety Tips for You and Your Family

shutterstock_65179048Summer is almost here and a trip to the beach, lake or pool is always fun for everyone. Even if your child knows how to swim, there are hazards associated with pools, spas, lakes and the beach. A child can drown quickly and quietly. Take some steps to keep it safe.

Drowning occurs both when adults are not present—when a child has left the house unnoticed and slipped into the pool and when an adult is present but has been distracted momentarily. If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.

  1. Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water. Never take for granted that someone is watching a child. Even if you are at the beach or a pool with friends or a caregiver, be sure to always watch your child near or in water.
  2. Be sure there is constant supervision planned when your child is visiting someone else’s pool. Find out who is supervising and be sure someone will be there at all times. Whether you are at your own home, visiting a home with a pool or spa, or your child is taking a trip to a beach with another family, be sure there is planned supervision at all times.Beware of rip currents. These currents don’t pull you under the water; they actually carry you out so far you can’t back. They can occur at any beach with waves, even the Great Lakes. You won’t be able to see or identify rip currents yourself, so talk to the Lifeguard on duty and check for posted signs and warning flags at the beach. Before you leave for the beach check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions.
  3. Select a safe area to swim. If you are swimming in a lake or river, find an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Avoid murky water, plant life, strong currents, and unexpected drop offs.
  4. If you have a choice, choose a beach, pool, or lake that is manned by trained lifeguards. Even if trained lifeguards are present, you still need to remain vigilant and at your child’s side
  5. A flotation device is not necessarily a safety device. In fact, some flotation devices can give you and your child a false sense of security. Your child should only wear a life vest that is U.S. Coast-Guard approved. Inflatable devices such as rafts and toys can lose air, shift positions, or slip out from underneath your child. Remember, a flotation device is not a substitute for your close supervision.
  6. Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments. Make sure the pool, spa or hot tub you are using has drains with compliant drain covers.  All drains should have anti-entrapment/anti-entanglement covers.  These covers are designed to keep your child’s hair from getting tangled in the drain. Check the drains on hotel pools or any other pool your child uses. If the drains are flat or uncovered, don’t let your children use the pool. Take extra precaution and make sure that loose items such as long hair, clothing or jewelry are not dangling when swimming in a pool or sitting in a spa.
  7. Make sure your pool is equipped with a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) – a device that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage is detected—or any other automatic shut-off systems in your own pool or spa. Whoever is supervising should also know where the pool or spa pump switch is and know how to turn it off. Be sure the location of the electrical cut-off switch for the pool or spa pump is plainly marked. If someone becomes entrapped, turn off the pump immediately.
  8. Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa.

The proper precaution ahead of time and during your swim outing will ensure you have a safe, fun day with your family and friends. Help spread the word about pool, spa and swim safety. For additional safety information, safety alerts and recalls go to   Pass it on and save a life!

Jamie Schaefer-Wilson is the executive director at The Safety Institute.