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Travel Safety Tips for Protecting Your Phone, Laptops, Identity

7 Travel Safety Tips for Protecting Your Data and Identity on the Road
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Let's face it — traveling isn't what it used to be. It's not just about packing a suitcase full of clothes and a new book or magazines. Today, most of us can't leave our homes without a laptop, tablet, camera and a smartphone or two. That's why these travel safety tips are so important, especially when it comes to protecting your data.

While digital devices have become a vital part of our lives and essential for getting by, there is a problem.

Your privacy is more at risk than ever when you travel. Safety has to become just as important as your personal safety and protecting your valuable. Travel safety tips aren't simple good reminders anymore—there important guidelines.

At home and away from home, safety comes first.

Your devices—your phones, computers, tablets—are loaded with personal information and pose significant privacy risks if not properly protected. If you lose or book or magazine while traveling, that's not so much a problem because they are easy to replace. But not your digital devices, as well as your key traveling documents, such as your passport and identification.

Just as you keep cash out of sight and valuables locked away, make sure you preserve your digital life when you're away from home. Follow these seven travel safety tips to help protect your personal information for safe and worry-free adventures on the road:

1. Protect Your Home

This should be a no-brainer and the place to start. Safe and worry-free travel starts with knowing your home is secure during your absence. Unfortunately, a lot of people broadcast their travel plans on all their social media accounts which can clue in potential thieves when to rob the vacant house. When posting on social media, make sure your settings are set to "private," or better yet, #latepost all your travel adventures when you get back.

2. Keep Important Documents at your Fingertips

It's bad enough when your wallet or bag gets stolen or lost while traveling, but it's even worse to realize you no longer have your passport, credit cards or driver's license. Scan or take pictures of your IDs, credit cards and other important travel documents as backup and store them on the cloud or "lock them down" with apps like Keepsafe Photo Vault. You'll breathe easier knowing all is not lost and you still have access to your travel and personal information.

3. Password-Protect and Encrypt Your Devices

Don't travel (or go anywhere) without setting a PIN, passcode or pattern to lock down your mobile phone, laptop and other devices. If you use a Password Manager to keep track of your passwords, use Travel Mode to choose which passwords to keep or remove in your password vault while traveling. Consider deleting sensitive files and apps you don't want accessed—you can reinstall them later.

4. Use a VPN

Data roaming fees are expensive so you're more likely to use free Wi-Fi at a hotel, airport, cafe or mall when you travel. Unfortunately, these public networks make it easy for crafty hackers and identity thieves to "eavesdrop" on your internet activities. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt your browsing and Internet activities and hide your IP so they stay private. A VPN is a software program/app you install on your laptop or phone. You simply turn it on when you go online, wherever you are.

VPNs also have the added benefit of enabling you to bypass geo-restrictions and government censorship, so you can access content from anywhere in the world. Make sure you use a legitimate VPN service that you trust to maintain your privacy and security.

5. Install Tracking or "Find Me" Apps on Your Devices

Laptops, tablets and smartphones are popular targets for theft because of their high resale value. There are several apps that can help you track and potentially recover your device in case it gets stolen or even lost. Some apps take photos of the perpetrator, geo-locate the device and even allow you to remotely log in and completely wipe your device to protect your information.

6. Use "Burner" Phones/Laptops and "Disposable" Online Accounts

If you really want to protect your data and other personal/sensitive information, consider traveling with lower-end, lower cost pre-paid devices — or use dedicated devices for traveling. For example, instead of traveling with your $1,200 MacBook, travel with a $200 Chromebook. You can still make phone calls, access your files on the cloud and browse the Internet, all while significantly lowering the risk of having your privacy compromised because you've eliminated the risk of losing your primary device.

Digital searches at U.S. and other international borders have dramatically increased in the last few years. Border officials have the right to examine your electronic devices and ask for the passwords to your phone or computer and even to your online accounts. Some people suggest you set up "fake" Google, Facebook and Dropbox accounts, using your real name, before you travel. Put enough stuff in each account to look real and show those accounts when asked.

7. Delete Your Rental Car Navigation History.

Rented cars are likely to have an event data recorder (EDR) built-in the car's navigations system. Like an airplane's black box, the EDR collects information about the vehicle's systems, its location and operator behavior. Also, if you use a rented or built-in GPS navigation system while driving a rental car, or you connect your phone to your rental car's Bluetooth system, you could be tracked by the car-rental company or hacked by a third party. Delete any navigation history or personal profile you set up in a rented GPS device or in the in-vehicle computer before you return the rental car. (Turn to YouTube or the internet for help on how to do it.)

Data privacy risks won't stop us from traveling, but we all need to become more aware of the various ways our data is collected and used—more to the point, you need to keep your privacy and security in mind at all times, whatever you're doing and wherever you are.

That's because our privacy concerns today go far beyond the boundaries of our everyday lives.

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