RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many people are preparing for summer vacations, it's a time to relax -- but not a time to let down your guard. Crooks are always on the prowl -- many looking to steal your identity. Financial experts say there are some tips to help protect your I. D. while you're on vacation.
Financial specialist, Rebecca Gershowitz says in a matter of seconds crooks can destroy your credit score -- the damage is done when consumers become victim's of identity theft.
"If you are a victim of identity theft, you have problems going forward, getting new credit maintaining the credit you have and you usually your score is shot," she said.
Gershowitz, works for Clear Point Credit Counseling Solutions. She says a prime time for I. D. theft is when consumers head for vacation.
"A full mail box is a prime target for identity thieves, they are definitely going to prey on that," she told us.
You can stay ahead of the crooks. If you are headed on vacation, get a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up your mail or stop delivery while you're gone. Another tip, don't load your wallet with credit cards, only take the ones you will be using, keep the others in a safe place while you're away and you may want to alert your credit card company that will be on vacation.
"If anything suspicious comes up, they are aware and they can put a freeze on your account or they can contact you," Gershowitz said.
She says taking small steps to protect yourself can mean the difference between financial security or a financial nightmare. Clearing up the problem can take months or even years -- and the entire time, your credit will suffer, making it difficult to get a car, a home or take another vacation.
"While you are in the middle of it, your score is going to plummet, they are going to do a lot of damage and as your score drops no matter how it is notated, if you are going to get a new loan and they see you have a low score you are going to get denied or you are going to get a really high interest rate," she added.
Crooks can be patient, so it may be months after your vacation that they target you -- remember to check your credit score, for free, at annual credit report.com and also monitor your credit card statements for any suspicious activity. Financial experts say you may also want to freeze your credit if you're going to be on vacation for a long period of time. If you are a victim of I. D. theft, experts say contact your creditors and the police.