Airports and Identity Theft: Staying Safer While On The Road

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Almost all of us make occasional treks to the airport. And most of the time we are thinking about where we are going, when we will get there, and other thoughts related to our trip activities. The airport often represents fun, vacation, or a different venue for our business activities.

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Unfortunately, airports can also be dangerous because they provide a great venue for identity thieves to engage in their crimes. Luggage transfer, public wifi and a chaotic environment all leave travelers open to becoming victims of identity theft.

Travelers are often fearful of losing their luggage, but there is another concern even if luggage isn’t lost or stolen permanently. When you check your luggage it is no longer in your control. Think about all of the people who have access to whatever items or personal information may be contained in your luggage once it leaves your possession. Is there anything in your checked baggage that could be used by an identity thief? What about the information on your luggage tags? From the tags alone, someone may gather names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of travelers. When packing luggage that will be checked for a flight, travelers should be aware of what information could be gathered from its contents and make sure that there is no personal identifying information.

Nowadays, many airports offer free public wifi. This may seem like a wonderful thing for busy travelers who need to catch up on emails or a chance to update your Facebook status. However, airport wifi is open to everyone in the airport. That means that users are potentially exposing everything on their wireless devices to anyone in the airport who wants to see it. Identity thieves can easily download programs which allow them to access the computers and accounts of anyone using the same network as them. Can you imagine exposing your online banking accounts to everyone in an airport? That is a possibility if you use airport wifi unprotected.

Airports are, by their very nature, the perfect place for crimes because of their chaotic nature. Travelers who are frazzled and distracted are more prone to leaving their purses or laptop bags in the bathroom as they run to catch a flight. At passenger security checkpoints, your belongings are scanned by agents as they move by on a conveyor belt, well within reach of others. While there is nothing travelers can do about having to be scanned before entering their terminal, what they can do is travel light and be sure that their personal belongings are always with them. If you happen to leave your carry-on luggage somewhere and are able to grab it before someone else does, check and be sure that everything that was in it before it left your sight is still there. Make sure you don’t carry any more personal identification than is absolutely necessary. Passports are not needed for domestic flights and there is no reason to have your Social Security cards with you. If these items are locked in a safe at home, then they cannot be lost or stolen during travel.

Travel can be exciting and fun at best, and devastating at worst. One thing travelers should not have to be concerned with is the additional problem of identity theft. They should able to worry about more important things… like whether there are free snacks on their flight.

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.