LIVING ABROAD

Maybe your company is sending you to Hong Kong for a year. Maybe your humanitarian side is compelling you to do volunteer work in Botswana or maybe your school is sending you to Europe for the summer to learn Spanish. All of these situations will see you leaving your home for a relatively long period. You’ve made your packing checklist and your to-do list, but have you thought about protecting your identity while you’re away?

Stolen Passport Or Other ID

If you’re between 35 and 50, your passport is one of the most sought-after documents by identity thieves, since they’re recognized not just in your home country, but all over the world. Canadian passports are worth their weight in gold on the international black market, since they can open all kinds of doors for international fraudsters. Your other pieces of Canadian identification, or ID issued in your host country, also contain valuable personal information.

How to protect and minimize risks
  • If you don’t need to carry it on you, keep your passport safely locked in the safe in your hotel room or wherever you’re staying.
  • Show your passport to customs officials only—never to tour guides or local service providers.
  • Never use your passport as a deposit for a service or as proof of identity.
  • Before you leave, make a photocopy of your passport and give it to someone you trust who will not be travelling with you. If you have any problems, this person could really help you when dealing with the local authorities. If you find yourself in a place where you feel your safety is threatened, contact the Canadian embassy or consulate to let them know where you are.
  • If you need to carry your identity documents on you, regularly check to make sure they’re still there.
  • Only bring the ID you’ll need while you’re away.

Stolen & Redirected Mail

Your mailbox is a goldmine of personal information. Just think about what can be found there: your credit card number, social insurance number, banking information, replacement driver’s licence, new credit cards… Fraudsters are counting on you to be away so they can steal your mail or have it redirected to their address by Canada Post.

How to protect and minimize risks
  • Make a change-of-address request at the post office to make sure Canada Post forwards your mail directly to your new address or to a temporary one (e.g. your parents’ house) for the duration of your time abroad.
  • If you’re only going away for a short period, have your mail delivery suspended or ask someone you trust to pick it up for you.
  • Make sure your mailbox has a lock to prevent theft.
  • Pay special attention to any mail that seems to have been tampered with.
  • Keep an eye out for your regular mail, such as monthly statements. If you notice anything is late, contact the company.
  • As soon as you know your new or temporary address, notify everyone who sends you mail: financial institutions, government departments and anyone else you do business with.
  • Make sure that everyone else in your household who is coming with you takes the same steps.

Credit Cards

When you’re travelling abroad, one of the easiest ways to pay for things is with your credit card. But credit card scams are one of the most popular types of fraud, since they’re an easy cash grab for scammers, no matter where you are in the world. And fixing the situation can be a complicated process, even from home—just imagine how much more difficult it would be from a foreign country.

To protect against fraud, your credit card issuer keeps track of your spending habits. That way, if any unusual activity shows up in your file, the issuer will contact you to verify your identity. Sometimes, your issuer might even simply refuse to approve the transaction. Sure, it’s a pain—but it’s still less of a hassle than having your identity stolen!

How to protect and minimize risks
  • Notify your credit card issuers that you’ll be travelling abroad so they can make a note in your file.
  • Bring only the credit cards you’ll need while you’re away.
  • Keep your receipts and regularly check them against your statements for any unusual transactions.
  • Remember that you shouldn’t have to provide retailers with any personal information in order to pay with a credit card.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with the common methods of payment in the country you’re going to.
  • Before you leave, visit voyage.gc.ca to find out more about crime in the country you’re going to visit.
  • Pay close attention to payment terminals. If you believe they may have been tampered with, pay in cash.
  • Drink responsibly. You’re only making the con artist’s job easier if you start sharing personal information after one too many!
  • Don’t tell your life story to everyone with a kind ear.

See the Credit Cards, Debit Cards and Bank Fraud page of the Finances section for more information

Burglaries

While you’re away, your empty home could make a prime target for thieves looking not just for valuables but also personal information.

How to protect and minimize risks
  • Ask someone you trust to make it look like someone’s home while you’re away.
  • Safely store any documents containing personal information under lock and key.
  • Don’t leave any public messages announcing that you’ll be away for a specific period of time—this includes your voicemail, email, and Facebook, Twitter or other social media networks.
  • Make a backup copy of your hard drive and keep it in a safe place—ideally somewhere other than your home.
  • Keep your friends and family updated about your trip and where you’re going, either by phone or email.
  • If you’ll be away for a long period of time, consider selling or renting out your home.
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