How to cover your identity trail as you move overseas

When you move home, locally or internationally, you do not want to leave your identity behind. If you do, you leave yourself open to identity theft and fraud. Here are some tips to help secure yourself and your money.

Man holding a mask beside his face - different identity

I’ve just completed a house move which has thrown the whole issue of identity theft firmly into the spotlight. It’s very easy to get de-clutter happy as you prepare for a move or when you move into a new home and find you have far less room to store things than you thought. The only recourse I had was to chuck out more clothes, junk and ancient paperwork.

Chuck out paperwork? Well not exactly. I decided to invest in an inexpensive paper shredder which not only destroys paper but plastic credit cards too (old ones of course!). So, every time I get rid of any document that has any personal details on it, I shred it rather than depend on the local recycling service to dispose of it.

When you first move to a new area it’s a bit like being on holiday, and easy to have your usual defenses down.  Here are my personal tips to help you stay alert and protect your ID:

Sign up to security alerts from your banks

You should receive alerts via an SMS on your phone wherever you are. That way, if there has been a security breach, you will know and can let your bank know immediately that it wasn’t you.

Be very careful on public Wi-Fi spots

Never use public Wi-Fi to carry out any personal transactions. Only use them for Googling information.

Lost phone?

If you use your phone to run your life and banking, sign up for a ‘Find my Phone’ service (if you have a Google account you could do it through that). Also make sure your phone has a screen lock on it before venturing out.

Thief taking someone's social security card

Be alert

When you’re out and about, be aware of your surroundings and your possessions. Hold handbags in front of you, and on your lap in restaurants and cafes. If you carry a wallet in your pocket…well just don’t in busy places.

ATMs are lethal weapons

Be very wary of ATMs, particularly “pop-up” ones. Check the ATM machine for obvious signs of tampering such as a raised number keyboard (fake ones are installed on top of the real one), bulges or scratches around the slot where the card is inserted and/or a sign that asks you to input your PIN twice.

Keep in contact with Contactless

If you pay by the ‘contactless’ method, make sure you check the amount the sales person has keyed in to the terminal and, from an ID theft point-of-view, never let that person take your card away from you.

Two young women sitting in front of laptop, realising their bank card has been used fraudulently

Scan all your personal documents

There’s no need to walk around with all your personal documents – though it’s tempting to when you first move to a new country as you might be feeling a bit insecure. Instead, scan them and file them online – somewhere secure – that you can access from any computer with a password or two.

Know who to call

If your wallet and personal documents were stolen, and most likely that will be for identity purposes as much as for any cash that’s in it, would you know your bank’s phone numbers? I suspect most people don’t. In fact, I’ve just jotted all of mine down (from the back of each bank card) on to a blank piece of card, taken a photo of it and saved that photo on to my safe, online storage site. So, assuming I could get online, or still had my phone, I’ve now got access to all my bank’s helpline numbers. I’ve done the same with my driving licence and my passport. If you have a social security or ID card, do the same with them too.

All these tips will help give you peace of mind and make an identity thief stop in their tracks if they do steal your documents or bank cards.

If the worst happens…

Don’t panic! In ‘I’m a victim of identity theft! What should I do now?‘ I take you through the steps you need to take to put the breaks on the thief’s penetration into your life and livelihood.

If you’ve got a good tip or two, please leave them in the comments section below.