Here comes summer vacation season. While many people took the last couple years off because of the recession - "staycation" became a bit of a buzzword, if you'll recall - Travelocity's predictions show we're ready to hit the road again. In a recent study, 49 percent of people said they plan to travel more this year.
If you are going on a summer trip, here are some of the things to remember to do before you leave:
Secure your house. Part of the reason July is high burglary season is that so many people are away on vacation. So this time around, arrange to have the post office hold your mail and suspend your newspaper delivery. "Especially if you have a curbside mailbox, there's certainly the potential for ID theft. But this is more about the fact that if newspapers or mail are piling up, it's a clear indication to people in the community that you're not home," said Michelle Boykins of the National Crime Prevention Council. Another clear indication is if your lights are off for an extended period. To fix that, buy a timer at your local home improvement store, which will cost less than $30.
Decide what to bring - and what to leave behind. This is a great time to clean out your wallet or purse, said Scott Mitic, chief executive of TrustedID. "Do a little vacation cleaning, and make sure that the things you are taking are only things you're absolutely going to need." Your Social Security card, in other words, stays home, as do any credit cards beyond the one or two you need for expenses and emergencies.
Don't spread the news. There are only a few people who need to know about your vacation: your boss, close relatives, a few friends and maybe a neighbor if you want someone to keep an eye on your house. Give at least one of these people detailed information about where you're going, including a phone number to reach you. Aside from that, keep quiet, particularly when it comes to social-networking sites. Not only can that information be used against you, it can be used against your friends. "It gives people the opportunity to impersonate you," Mitic said.
On your trip:
Secure your car. If this is a road trip, you're bound to be stopping along the way for gas. Pick well-lit stations, Boykins said, and make sure your doors are locked if you decide to run in to pay or grab a snack.
Use WiFi carefully. I love a hotel that offers WiFi, especially if it's free. But I never access sensitive information, like my bank account or an online shopping website that stores my credit card information, on a public WiFi connection. "You have to be very careful about the kinds of sites you're accessing, because (the connection) is exactly what it says: public. Anyone with even basic tech knowledge can see the information that is being transmitted over a hotel or coffee shop Internet connection," Mitic said. If you need to access your bank account, use the old-fashioned Ethernet cable. Most hotels provide both options.
Be wary of hotel safes. While traveling recently, I put a few things in my safe and was unable to get it open. After calling the front desk, someone came up and swiped a card. It made me wonder: If he could get in that easily, who else could? Were my things really safe? Boykins says they may not be. "If you're concerned, talk to the hotel and find out if they have another option for you other than the safe in your room."
Finally, if you're a victim of identity theft while traveling, report the crime to the police in the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred - don't wait until you get home.