Editor’s note: When we travel, it’s natural to want to use convenient ride or housesharing services and to ‘spread the word’ to friends and family about where we’re at, what we’re seeing, etc. However, LifeLock, the identity protection experts, recently conducted a survey and found our behaviors using these services and social media sharing may be putting our identities at risk when we travel. Here’s what they found and how to protect yourself. — BH
LifeLock, Inc. revealed findings from a new survey examining peoples’ behaviors while using home sharing and ridesharing services, and that their behaviors, not the services themselves, are putting their identities at risk during travel. The research found that the risks involved had less to do with the services and more with consumers’ habits and misjudgments when using them.
“With summertime travel underway, more people are turning to ride and home sharing options for their vacation needs,” said Paige Hanson, Chief of Identity Education at LifeLock. “These services are certainly convenient for travelers, and typically come at a lower cost, but it’s important to use caution and participate in the sharing economy in a safe way.”
The Survey’s Top Findings:
41 percent of Americans, including 57 percent of Millennials, admit they have looked through personal items when visiting someone else’s home. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans (49 percent) confessed they frequently fail to lock up personal documents in their own homes.
Fifty percent of Americans think it’s riskier to leave the doors to their home unlocked for a week than to rent their home to a stranger. However, both behaviors may leave unsuspecting individuals susceptible to identity theft if their personal information is accessible.
Risky behaviors extend beyond house sharing—forgetfulness in ridesharing was found to be a serious issue. The data found that nearly 1 in 4 Americans (24 percent), including 41 percent of Millennials, have left a valuable personal item, such as a wallet or mobile phone, in a taxi or ridesharing service.
Before heading out on a vacation of their own, 37 percent of Americans, including 42 percent of Millennials, are unlikely to put their mail on hold with the post office, possibly exposing personal information to others who may have access to the travelers’ unsecured or overflowing mailboxes.
Additionally, 41 percent of Americans, including 53 percent of parents, admitted to throwing away documents that included personal information, such as their phone number or bank account information, in a trash can that’s available to the public.
How to Protect Yourself
Triple check that you’ve locked up anything that includes personal information before opening the door to renters. This rule applies to your “typical” personal documents, including birth certificates, bank statements, utility/medical bills and Social Security cards. It should also extend to other items such as blank checks and even prescription medicine bottles, that are also a trove of personal information. In short, you can never be too safe. Unfortunately, having a stolen identity can haunt you for life.
Put your mail and newspapers on hold. There’s nothing like an overflowing mailbox to tell thieves you’re not home – except, perhaps, a stack of newspapers in the driveway. The USPS will hold your mail for you and deliver it when you get back.
Have a separate Wi-Fi account for renters and guests. By doing so, you can reduce the potential of having your network hacked. Also, if renters are conducting illegal behavior using your Wi-Fi account, having a separate account can reduce the negative implications of having it tied to your name.
Always check the seat before hopping out of a taxi or rideshare. This simple step could save you more than just the headache of replacing lost items—think about the personal information stored on your phone, for instance.
Add a password to your devices.
Enable the “lost phone” function on your Android or iOS platform phone, so if it’s misplaced or stolen, you can track the device and notify the finder—or even wipe its contents remotely.
For more insights into these findings, and tips on reducing exposure to risk in the sharing economy, visit the company blog LifeLock UnLocked.
The LifeLock Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,002 nationally representative U.S. adults, ages 18+, between March 24th and 30th, 2016, using an email invitation and an online survey. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.