Don't leave home without it: your financial security.
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, no one wants to worry about being scammed or exposed to identity theft.
But traveling -- when we're so focused on work or so relaxed that we let our guard down -- makes us an easy target for identity thieves and scam artists.
"The truth is, when you're on a business trip or on vacation, you're distracted. You're either thinking about the deal or the swimming pool," said Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of Identity Theft 911, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
And scammers know that. "They're counting on the fact that you are not thinking about this stuff," Levin said.
From phony Wi-Fi hotspots to "free vacation" come-ons, here's a rundown of some of the most common vacation-time scams.
You're dead asleep in the middle of the night and someone who says they're from the hotel front desk calls, asking to verify your credit card information. Groggy and without thinking, you recite it, including the expiration and security code number. Bingo, you've just landed in the hands of scammers.
"It's one of the great scams ever," Levin said. If you get such a call, say you'll call them back or that you're coming down to the lobby. Hang up and call your credit card company (the number listed on your card) to ensure there's been no fraudulent activity.
The come-ons land by postcard, letter or phone message: "Congratulations, you've won a free vacation!" to Tahiti, Tahoe or wherever. They often are linked to "vacation club" memberships, where you join to get discount travel deals.
Typically, they require sitting through a sales presentation at a company's office or a hotel ballroom in order to receive your "free" round-trip airline tickets or three-day hotel voucher.
After enduring an hours-long, high-pressure sales pitch, problems can arise when consumers try to claim their freebie trip: The voucher covers less than promised, lots of blackout dates apply, or "it's just incredibly difficult to book the travel," said Northeast California Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Cailin Peterson.
"Research before you purchase and don't let high-pressure tactics get to you," said Peterson.
Social media fraud
Fake emails or websites -- known as phishing -- are nothing new online. But they've now migrated to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, where phony, look-alike accounts pose as legitimate companies, like Southwest Airlines or Best Buy. They post accounts promising free flights or other giveaways, if you'll "like," "follow" or "comment on" their site. It's actually a ruse to get you to divulge sensitive personal information.
Fake Wi-Fi hotspots
You're in the airport or at your hotel on a business trip or vacation. What's the first thing you do? Check for a Wi-Fi hotspot for your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
But you could unwittingly be falling victim to an identity thief, sitting nearby and armed with a USB-based antenna to lure you in. It could be a network that sounds like your hotel -- "Hotel Wi-Fi," instead of "Holiday Inn Wi-Fi," for instance.
1. Stop mail/paper deliveries. Catalogs and newspapers cluttering your doorstep are a sure sign that nobody is home.
2. Make your home look inhabited. Recruit a trusted friend or family member to house-sit or stop by to turn on lights, water plants and pick up loose mail and papers. Or put lights on timers to go on and off at regular hours.
3. Delete, delete. Empty your wallet of extra cards and IDs. Never travel with your Social Security card or checkbook. Only put your name/phone on luggage tags, not an address.
4. Copy important documents. Make paper copies of your passport, plane tickets, hotel reservations, health insurance card, etc. Or scan copies, then save on an encrypted thumb drive or email to yourself.
5. Watch your pockets. Be alert for pickpockets.