Can The IRS Come After My Husband For Tax Related Identity Theft Due to His Father?

Question: My husband’s father owned a convenient store that he put under my husband’s name. His father didn’t pay taxes for a year — and  now the IRS is going after my husband, since the store is under his name!

He didn’t acquire any profits, as it was his father’s store. My husband was in Texas at the time his father had this issue in Illinois. We are dealing with a $40,000 fee. Is there a way to get out of this situation?

This happened before we got married. Can the IRS come after my paychecks?

— Nida in Pennsylvania

Jacob Dayan answers…

This question is very difficult to answer with the information provided, but I’ll do my best to try and put your mind at ease.

First off, in the interest of being completely transparent, this is a very serious situation and should be handled with extreme urgency!

Now, that being said…

If he didn’t know his dad committed tax identity theft

If your husband’s information was used without his knowledge or consent, then you should consider that identity theft — and treat it like a crime. Here’s what your husband should do:

  • File a police report locally.
  • Contact the IRS and let them know this was caused by identity theft.
  • Your husband will need to file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS, explaining all the details he knows to be true regarding the situation.
  • In the Identity Theft Affidavit, he should include the police report and any notices about the issue.

While it won’t be a short process, odds are you can resolve this situation eventually.

If he did know

What if your husband consented to the business being owned under his name and run by your father-in-law? Then, unfortunately, he can be held responsible for any tax responsibilities for the business.

Since Texas is a community property state, this also means that you can be collectible for any of your husband’s tax debts, even though you are not liable for them. If both you and your husband are collectible for the debt, then there are options available to protect your paycheck. But depending on what stage of collections the IRS is in, time may be of the essence.

What to do now

I highly recommend seeking representation by a licensed tax practitioner. This situation is not uncommon for our professionals, and we would be happy to have a preliminary discussion and investigate your situation. Either way, we wish you and your husband the best of luck in resolving this matter!

Jacob Dayan is co-founder of Community Tax LLC, a full-service tax company helping customers nationwide with tax resolution, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and accounting.

What Is Tax Fraud? And Should I Be Worried About It?

Question: My husband does our taxes every year, and when I tell him I’ve read lots of stories about tax fraud, he tells me not to worry.

He says it’s just a bunch of companies trying to scare us into buying protection services. He says all those identity theft commercials on TV, where they tell you it’s the most horrible problem ever – and then they want $20 a month to solve it.

I don’t know what to think. I don’t even know what tax fraud is, exactly. What do you think?

— Cindy in Oregon

Howard Dvorkin answers…

Before I tell you what I think, Cindy, let me tell you what I know: Identity theft and tax fraud are very real and very big problems.

Your question is about tax fraud, which can be a form of identity theft depending on how it’s done. First, let me impress upon you and your husband: Identity theft is the most pervasive crime in this country. Tell me another crime that affects more than 12 million Americans a year, according to statistics compiled by Debt.com.

Now let’s address your husband’s excuse for not taking tax fraud seriously. Yes, there are companies out there that advertise their services to protect you from identity theft. Thankfully, most are reputable, from LifeLock to one that Debt.com partners with.

I don’t agree with “scare tactics” in advertising, precisely because they make people like your husband skeptical or numb to the problem. However, it’s a big mistake to ignore tax fraud. Let’s discuss why…

What is tax identity theft?

As Debt.com wrote earlier this year, “Tax identity theft is committed when a criminal files a tax return in your name, with the hopes of stealing your refund.” There are numerous ways they do this, and they’re always changing and evolving.

In fact, the IRS just recently warned tax preparers “to step up security and beware of phishing emails that can secretly download malicious software that can help cybercriminals steal client data.”

How does this new scam work? It’s brazen, says the IRS…

In a new twist, the fraudulent returns in a few cases used the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit. A woman posing as a debt collection agency official then contacted the taxpayers to say a refund was deposited in error and asked the taxpayers to forward the money to her.

That’s right, the criminals actually steal your identity from your tax preparer, file a fraudulent return, and put the refund in your own account. Then they pose as IRS agents or police and insist the deposit is an error – and order you to return it.

As Forbes describes it, this scam works because, “Unlike previous variations on the scams, there is ‘proof’ that the call from the alleged IRS representative is for real: The taxpayer typically does have a bogus tax refund in his or her bank account.”

What you can do to protect yourself

There are three tactics that can help you avoid this kind of tax fraud. First, file your taxes soon as you can. You basically want to beat the bad guys to the punch. They can’t file for you if you’ve already done it.

Second, the IRS offers a refund tracking service. Check it out. It’s free. Third, you can e-file your taxes, which requires a PIN.

Whatever you do, Cindy, tell your husband: Doing nothing is dangerous.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

How Do I Get Rid Of A Credit Card Charge I Didn’t Make?

Question: I have a debt from a credit card that I have been disputing with credit bureaus and the card issuer for years. I cannot get it removed. I have “welcoming” paperwork from the card issuer with address that was not my legal address due to identity theft. I have sent them copy of my lease with the correct address but still can’t get removed. How can I get this removed?

— Gail in Rhode Island

Gerri Detweiler answers…

Let’s review the steps for disputing credit report errors, and then we can suggest some alternatives.

When you find a mistake on your credit reports, the first step is to dispute it with the credit reporting agency that’s reporting the mistake. There are three major credit reporting agencies, or CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They don’t share information with each other, so you’ll need to dispute the mistake with each CRA, assuming each of them is reporting it.

When a CRA receives your dispute, it must investigate and respond within 30 days in most cases. The item can no longer be reported if it cannot be verified with the lender or company reporting it.

(The company reporting the claim to the CRAs is referred to as the “furnisher” of information under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, the federal law that applies to credit reporting agencies.)

If the dispute with the credit reporting agency doesn’t resolve your problem, the next step is to dispute the mistake directly with the furnisher who reported the erroneous information. In your case, that’s the credit card issuer.

You gain an advantage when you dispute incorrect information directly with the CRA that’s reporting it. Why? If the furnisher of the information agrees there’s an error, it must report the correction with any credit reporting agency to which it has supplied that information. This requirement could save you the extra steps of having to contact each CRA separately if you haven’t already done so.

There’s one more important protection that may apply in your case. If a consumer notifies a CRA that information in her report is incorrect due to identity theft, federal law says the CRA must block that item and notify the furnisher. However, they can decline to block the information or rescind the block if it determines it was blocked in error, or if there was a misrepresentation by the consumer.

You didn’t mention what information you’ve provided to verify your claim of ID theft beyond a copy of your lease at the time. Sometimes card issuers will want to see verification of the theft in the form of a police report or identity theft affidavit. It’s not always required, but it could be necessary in order to help get your claim taken seriously.

I’m assuming your debt hasn’t been turned over to collections. If you’re contacted by a collection agency or a collection account appears on your credit reports you’ll need to also dispute it with the debt collection agency.

Given that you’ve already tried disputing your problematic item with the CRAs and the furnisher, you’ll have to try other approaches.

One option is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at ConsumerFinance.gov. The CFPB will likely contact the credit reporting agency and, with the agency’s assistance, you may be able to resolve your problem.

If that doesn’t work, you can contact an attorney with experience in consumer credit reporting cases. The website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates can help you find a lawyer in your state with that expertise. If the attorney thinks you have a good case, she may be willing to take it on a contingent fee basis so you don’t have to pay her upfront.

If neither of these approaches work, keep in mind that as negative information ages, it should have less of an impact on your credit scores, especially if your credit reports show on-time payments since the date of the negative information was first reported. In other words, time is on your side. You don’t have to wait until the negative account is removed from your credit reports to start rebuilding your credit.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin or one of his fellow experts will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

How Can I NOT Be a Victim Of Identity Theft?

Question: I have a checking and savings account with Bank of America. Last month, the bank contacted me about a couple of charges I didn’t make. At first, the amounts were in the hundreds, like $422. Then it kept going, until I’d log onto my account and see a check cashed for $888,888. 

Bank of America has been great, making sure I haven’t been charged for anything. I closed and opened a new account, but this makes me wonder: How does this even happen? The bank representatives won’t give me any details.

This has also happened with my Chase Visa. Twice in the past few years, a representative has called me and asked if I bought gasoline in Virginia and clothes in Texas, even though I’ve never been either place. 

Just like with Bank of America, they took care of everything. But wow, it makes me wonder just how bad this fraud is getting, and if it’ll eventually catch up with me — and I won’t be able to get my money back. What can we do about this? Is there something I should be doing?

— Christine in Florida

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

I ran your letter in full, Christine, because I think it’s very important. The same day I got your email, I saw this report from TD Bank: Cybersecurity Incidents Plague U.S. Finance Operations.

The bank polled nearly 400 financial pros and found 64 percent “reported that either their organization or one of their clients was involved in a cybersecurity event in the past year.”

That term cybersecurity event is an interesting one. It sounds almost harmless. It’s not.

I don’t know the particulars of your “events,” Christine, but they’re becoming more common. TD Bank found 91 percent of the pros they talked to think online fraud “will become a bigger threat in the next two to three years.” They’ve asked the same question for years, and this was the first time the number broke 90 percent.

So what can you do? First, don’t rely on your bank or credit card provider to call you. Monitor your accounts at least once a month. As Debt.com has reported, “Half of ID theft crimes remain unnoticed for at least one month, and 1 out of 10 crimes remains hidden for 2 or more years.”

Both Chase and Bank of America have intuitive online monitoring — it literally take only a few minutes to log on and navigate to your balances. Just make sure you do it from home, using a secure connection. Never log into your financial accounts from public Wi-Fi.

Second, check out Debt.com’s Identity Theft Resources for a free guide to everything you need to know to protect yourself.

Third, don’t get so concerned you worry too much. That may sound like an odd thing to say, given the severity of the problem. However, banks and credit card providers have become adept at painlessly fixing these problems, even if they can’t yet stop them.

As identity theft grows, I hear some people muse about never banking online, or using any online budgeting tools like Mint or Power Wallet. That’s an overreaction, not an answer.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

How Sick Is This Form Of Identity Theft?

Question: In January, I went to an urgent care center after I fell off a ladder. I was treated really good. But last month, I started getting calls from a really obnoxious bill collector. He said I owed $3,000 for my son’s treatment for a broken arm. Here’s the thing: I don’t have a son! At least not one that I know of.

I told the guy he got it wrong, but he and another dude keep calling me. They’re threatening all kinds of trouble. I went back to the urgent care center, and they said they didn’t know anything about this. When I told the bill collectors that the urgent care center would vouch for me, they didn’t care. They want their money, and they’re calling every day. What the hell do I do?

— Paul in Colorado

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

You’re not going to find this reassuring, Paul, but you’re not alone. Last month alone, Debt.com reported twice on the growing problem of medical identity theft.

First, we reported that 44 percent of all American adults fear this particular form of ID theft. Then we noted that one-third of all data breaches come from inside hospitals. So what can you do? Most advice on this topic — including Debt.com’s — is how to prevent this sickening kind of theft.

What if it’s already happened, however? That’s the case with you, Paul. There’s a name for what you’re facing. It’s called collector harassment. You can read all about it in Collector Harassment Basics.

Fortunately, there’s a law that governs — and punishes — bill collectors. It’s called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA for short. For instance, when you say collectors are calling you “every day,” the FDCPA says can’t call you Sundays or before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on the other days. There are many other restrictions, too…

  • They can’t use obscene language.
  • They can’t threaten you with harm or arrest.
  • They can’t call you without identifying themselves.

If the calls are still coming, you can get a free consultation of your situation by filling out this collector harassment form. Debt.com will match you with a specialist in the field of ending such harassment. To help you, these specialists will charge a small fee, but you don’t pay for the consultation. If you don’t follow up with us, Paul, please consult someone. Bill collectors seldom give up on their own. Someone has to stop them.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Ask The Expert: Does My Family Need Identity Theft Prevention After Hack?

Question: I already know that fights about money are a major reason why marriages go to hell. So before I proposed to my girlfriend at Thanksgiving — in front of her family, which was cool — we sat down and reviewed our finances.

Turns out, we’re good. She’s got a few grand on her credit cards but nothing else except a car loan. I got $12,000 left on my student loans, but I cut my payments with one of your programs

Here’s the thing, though: Over the holidays, she got hacked. Her identity got stolen. And I just learned it’s happened, like, four or five times before! It’s her fault, too. Her passwords are all, “me123” (with “me” being her name). She uses public wifi in coffee bars to pay her bills, and she clicks on attachments in her email even when they’re from people she doesn’t know.

She’s lost hundreds of dollars in these hacks and says she’s gonna change. But she still hasn’t changed a single password. I’m afraid to marry and spend lots of time and money dealing with this stuff. What can I do to make her understand? This is really bugging me, because it’s such an easy thing to fix but she won’t do it, not even for me and our future.

— Juan in Arizona

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastI completely understand your frustration, Juan. In fact, I’m even more upset than you are. You’re angry at your fiancee, while I’m mad at the world.

Just a few months ago, Debt.com reported how ID Theft Is More Common Because We’re More Lazy. “Americans aren’t doing enough to protect themselves from getting identities stolen,” we concluded after studying the latest research.

Sadly, that wasn’t breaking news. In 2014, we wrote, Identity theft is probably your fault, and in 2013, we wrote, Who is to blame for identity theft? Look in the mirror.

Just this month, the University of Phoenix released another study on the topic. It pretty much describes your fiancee…

  • 52 percent of U.S. adults “are willing to overlook cybersecurity risks for the sake of convenience.”
  • “60 percent use open Wi-Fi networks even though they don’t trust them — because “the convenience of using the unsecured network outweighed any potential risk.”

So what can you do? I can’t give you a perfect solution, Juan. Why? Because sadly, the most effective solution to being careless on the Internet  is to become a victim of identity theft. In my experience, the cost in hours and dollars is so steep, most people vow, “Never again will I ignore Internet security.”

Unfortunately, your fiancee has been a victim many times, yet the hard lessons haven’t sunk in. So I have two suggestions.

First, before you marry, you need to agree: You’re in charge of the finances until she can adhere to the basics of Internet security. That means no joint credit or debit cards, and only you have access to online banking. She can (and should) view that information, but she shouldn’t be able to log on without you.

Second, you may want to buy a service like LifeLock. Debt.com offers its own version called IdentityIQ, which does the same thing for slightly less.  These protection services not only alert you to bad things, they offer insurance if something bad does happen. Check them out, and I really hope your fiancee doesn’t let her sloppy web habits torpedo a lifetime of happiness.

creditrepairad

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Am I Next To Get Hit With Identity Theft? [VIDEO]

Question: Just since Thanksgiving, my daughter and my cousin have been victims of identity theft because of their credit card numbers being stolen. Around this time last year, my step-father even had his identity stolen while filing his taxes online! Is there anything I can do to not be next? I’m afraid to buy anything on my credit card or type in any personal information online.

— Amanda in Oklahoma

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastLet me start in the middle: Tax ID theft is a serious problem. I wrote about it almost exactly a year ago, and last week was Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Event though the week is over, I urge anyone who files taxes to check out the link.

As for identity theft in general, it’s indeed a national scourge. Last year, Debt.com added up 100 Days of Credit Card Theft and plotted it on a map of the United States. The results are literally graphic.

What can you do? I made this video to explain it as clearly as possible…

That’s an overview, of course. If you want to learn more, check out Debt.com’s How to Prevent Identity Theft section. Finally, I suggest looking into an identity theft protection service. If you’re that worried, Amanda, Credit Power’s low fee can give you peace of mind.

creditrepairad

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Ask The Expert: Is Online Banking Really Safe?

Question: I’m in college, and my mom is horrified that I still don’t have a “real” bank account. I keep my money in Ally Bank, an online bank. My mom thinks that’s unsafe, and she can’t get over the fact that Ally has no branches I can visit if there’s a problem.

I realize you deal with bigger problems than this, but how can I convince my mom that online banking is legit? And that maybe she should try it? She’d definitely save some time and money.

— Patrick in Oklahoma

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastLike most things, online banking is safe if you do it right. Thankfully, “right” is also easy. Let’s use your bank as an example.

Ally Bank is highly rated. In fact, my friends at GoBankingRates deemed them the No. 1 online bank for two years in a row. Why? Because Ally has many of the features you should look for…

  • It’s FDIC-insured just like brick-and-mortar banks.
  • It doesn’t charge a monthly fee for a checking account. (“Fees average $8.61 at online banks and $12.95 at brick-and-mortar institutions,” GoBankingRates says.)
  • It offers round-the-clock customer support on the telephone, live chat online, and a mobile app.
  • For savers, CD rates are higher than brick-and-mortar banks.

There are many banks just like Ally Bank, and finding the perfect one for you might take an hour or so of web searching. For instance, many online banks offer free ATM service by partnering with brick-and-mortar banks. However,  the overall number of ATMs and their locations might not mesh with where you live, so checking their websites is a good idea before opening an account.

As for visiting a branch bank, your mother doesn’t need to worry. A report by my friends at Bankrate indicates, “39 percent of Americans haven’t visited a bank or credit union branch in at least six months. This is up from 34 percent when this question was last asked in March 2014.”

It’s quite possible branch banks will go the way of print newspapers: Still around for those who prefer them, but no longer the only delivery method.

I understand your mother’s reluctance to suddenly shift her hard-earned cash into a new kind of bank that didn’t exist a decade ago. Still, technology has been a huge boon for those looking to control their spending and eliminate their debt. So let me recommend a half-step for her and something you should definitely consider.

It’s called PowerWallet, and Debt.com offers it for free. PowerWallet is a suite of online money management tools that are powerful but easy to use. In a nutshell, you create an account and then merge all your financial data into it.

PowerWallet isn’t a bank. Instead, it allows you to see all your spending and create budgets for every need. Your mother might already be an excellent saver, but this will give her new insights — and allow her to get comfortable with using online tools for her money.

For you, PowerWallet can help you adapt to new spending challenges as they arise, which they certainly do when you’re in college and then graduate into a whole new financial world. Again, PowerWallet costs nothing, so this isn’t a sales pitch. However, it might be a way for you and your mother to finally agree on financial technology.

creditrepairad

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Ask The Expert: My Mom Stole My Money, What Now?

Question: I have debt from Wells Fargo that was $125 — but in 2014 turned into $300. Now I have no idea where it is. I also owe Verizon $1,300 and Comcast $1,500, because my mother used my name and Social Security number to order these services for herself — knowing she wouldn’t pay.

I’ve never really been taught to be responsible with cash, which is kinda why when I got a lump sum of $30,000 dollars from an accident I had as a child my family guilt-tripped me into taking, stole from me, and copied down my credit card numbers to the point I’m now broke. I live with the same mother who stole from me and threatens to make me homeless if I bring it up. I just wanna know how I can clear my debts and become responsible with my money.

— Patrick in Pennsylvania

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on family identity theftI’m so sorry to hear about this, Patrick. Your family has wronged you twice: not teaching you the basic life skill of money management, and stealing whatever money you’ve managed to acquire.

Parents need to have “the talk” with their children — not just about sex but about money. You didn’t get that, but it’s not too late to learn.

First, let’s fix the problem you have right now…

Get your credit reports

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com — and only there. As I’ve detailed before, other websites offer you “free” credit reports, but then slyly try to tack on other services.

 But ACR is government-approved and completely free. You can order one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year at no cost. Usually, experts advise you to order one every four months, but you need all three right away.

Once you order these reports, you’ll see what debts are outstanding and what company is holding those debts. That will answer your Wells Fargo question.

Then you need to call those companies. You may be able to negotiate with them. Of course, that raises an obvious question: Why would they be willing to negotiate with you? I explained that to another Debt.com reader back in January, so check the tactics for making those calls.

You should also check those credit reports to see if there are other credit-card accounts opened in your name by other people. Here’s what to look for. If you didn’t sign up yourself, tell those card issuers it was done so fraudulently. They’ll close them, and they’ll investigate.

Given your family history, you may want to consider credit monitoring. Given your debts, you should explore professional solutions. Debt.com has a section called Finding the Right Debt Relief Strategy.

After you do a little reading and digging, Patrick, can call one of our certified counselors at 1-800-810-0989 for a free debt analysis. They may be able to get you back on track.

creditrepairad

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Ask the Expert: How Can I Guard Against Identity Theft When Traveling?

Question: We finally paid off my credit cards after three years of scrimping and saving. I’m rewarding my wife with our first-ever trip to Europe. I’ve learned not to run up my credit cards, so I’m not worried about overspending — we’ve planned this vacation very well.

But we’ve been the victim of identity theft twice, both times on our credit cards. It’s happened when we lived in a big state (New York) and a small one (South Carolina). How do I make sure it doesn’t happen on another continent?

— Paul in South Carolina

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastFirst of all, congratulations! This is what being debt-free is all about: Having good, clean, no-stress, no-guilt fun. You’ll enjoy your European vacation, and you won’t feel terrible later when the bills come in — because you’ve already planned for them.

You’re also planning for disaster, which is smart, too. Identity theft is a huge problem in this country, as Debt.com has reported. While there are no hard numbers on Americans who suffer ID theft overseas, the simple fact is, you’re more exposed to the crime than here at home. Here’s what you can do…

1. Tell some people you’re leaving

Your credit card company doesn’t want you to become a victim. If you call the number on the back of your card(s) and tell them where you’re going and for how long, their fraud departments will note that and pay extra attention to potentially bogus charges.

2. Don’t tell other people

Don’t tell everyone on your social media about your vacation plans. While you might think your settings are all marked private or “friends only,” we all know social media security isn’t airtight. If you want to brag about your trip, do it when you return home.

3. Stop your snail mail from piling up

We’re so worried about online ID theft and credit card theft, we often forget those boxes where paper envelopes arrive from the Post Office. ID thieves see a full mailbox as an invitation. By cobbling together personal mail and junk mail, they can often glean enough information to make your life miserable.

4. Empty your wallet

Pickpockets aren’t a huge problem in this country, but they can be overseas. Take only essential documents with you, and never put your Social Security card in your wallet, even here at home.

When you hit the tourist attractions, carry only one credit card with you. Leave the others and your checkbook locked in the safe in your hotel room. Why? Because if you do get your pocket picked, you can report the single card stolen and still have access to money in the meantime.

idtheftad

5. Make copies

A photocopier can be your best friend. Make copies of your plane ticket, passport, hotel reservations, even your credit cards and driver’s license. Lock up those copies and hope you never need them. But should you get cleaned out, these copies go a long way to quickly restoring your vacation. Don’t forget to make a list of important phone numbers and make a couple copies of that, too.

6. Be careful about phone calls and computers

If you use hotel computers, never enter or access personal financial information. (You should know better than to do that over public Wi-Fi in this country.) Also, a common tourist scam is for someone to call your room and pose as the front desk, then ask to “reconfirm” your credit card number. Hang up and call the front desk yourself.

7. Consider an ID theft service

I’ve written before about identity theft protection services like Life Lock, and Debt.com even offers one called Credit Power, which is the cheapest out there while still offering all the protection you need. If you’re skeptical, you can try out these services for less than $20, which might be a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with them while on vacation.

Have a fun and safe vacation, Paul!