PORTLAND, ME--(Marketwire - June 11, 2010) -  Despite the fact that identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., more than half of Northern New England residents have little or no concern about it happening to them while traveling or visiting retail locations this summer, according to a new survey by AAA Northern New England.

The survey also revealed that almost one-third of polled Northern New England residents do not plan to take a few common precautions to prevent or minimize the effects of ID theft while on vacation this summer, such as removing unneeded IDs or credit cards from one's wallet before traveling.

"Identity theft is a growing crime that is more likely to victimize consumers than most other crimes, yet this poll shows that most Northern New England residents have little concern that it will happen to them," said AAA Northern New England spokesperson Pat Moody. "Summer vacations should be fun and stress-free, and travelers can help ensure their peace of mind by taking steps to reduce their chances of becoming ID theft victims."

Moody recommends that in addition to removing unneeded credit cards and identification from one's wallet prior to a trip, travelers should photocopy their ID or passport and bring that copy in their luggage in case their wallet is stolen on the trip, and they should also contact their credit card companies to alert them when and where they will be traveling. Twenty-nine percent of local residents responding to the AAA poll said they do none of those things prior to going on vacation.

AAA Northern New England recommends that travelers also do the following before leaving on a summer vacation:

  • When planning your trip, be skeptical of any e-mail purportedly from one of your travel providers that directs you to a website in which credit card or personal information is entered. One of the largest forms of fraud is "phishing," in which victims receive an email that directs to a phony website that is an exact copy of a real website and requests users to enter personal and financial data, supposedly to verify accounts.
  • Also when planning your trip, do not give out your credit card number, social security number, birth date or other personal information over the phone unless you are familiar with the merchant or you have initiated the call.
  • Sign up for an identity theft monitoring service. Some are available for free through consumers' business affiliations and memberships, while more robust solutions are offered for a fee. For example, AAA Northern New England members can receive free credit monitoring and identity fraud resolution support from CreditCheck® Select, a part of Experian®, just by signing up for the member benefit at www.AAA.com. AAA members also save 30 percent on a more robust solution called ProtectMyID™, also offered by Experian.
  • If you plan to bring a smart phone and/or a laptop on the trip, you can create a password-protected file on it ahead of time to store your credit card account numbers and issuer contact information, allowing for quick reporting if credit cards are lost or stolen.
  • When making travel reservations or any purchase over the Internet using a credit card, make sure that the site provides a secure, encrypted location for you to enter your credit card information (the prefix address at the top of the Web site should be https:// rather than http://)

While traveling this summer or anytime, AAA Northern New England recommends:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Tourist areas can be targets for pickpocketers -- your travel agent can often advise you which areas have a reputation for possible theft. Consider using a securely strapped travel wallet to store your credit cards and identification, or if carrying a purse, make sure you keep it with you zipped, secure and visible to you at all times.
  • Treat your credit cards and all your identification like cash. Keep them securely in your wallet when not needed.
  • Check your bank and credit card activity online and/or at an ATM at least once during the trip if you are able to do so in a secure manner. This will help you quickly detect whether you have become a victim of "skimming." Skimming often occurs in restaurants and bars where credit cards are out of sight of the cardholder. Secret copies of the magnetic strip are made in order to make a counterfeit card.
  • Report billing errors and lost or stolen cards immediately to resolve problems in a timely manner and reduce possible fraudulent activity.
  • Track your usage by keeping receipts for your ATM, credit and debit cards.
  • When entering a debit card pin or displaying your credit card or driver's license for a purchase, shield them from the view of bystanders.
  • It is wiser to use a credit card rather than a debit card when making purchases on vacation. When you use a debit card, it is your money at stake and not the bank's.
  • If traveling by car, don't leave any valuable items in the car containing credit cards or credit card information such as a purse or laptop if possible. If you must leave valuables in the car, hide them from view.

AAA Northern New England conducted this survey along with a summer travel survey online from April 27 to May 3. The summer travel poll revealed that Northern New Englanders plan to take more vacations this summer than last year and spend more money.

Both surveys were taken by 264 AAA members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and a total of 2,300 AAA members around the country. It has a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percent.

Contact Information:

Pat Moody
(207) 780-6919