Avoid identity theft in three surprising ways

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Leave your wallet on your beach towel. Carry a fancy cell phone that stores all of your financial information without any password protection. Email your credit card's three-digit security code to a hotel clerk...Oops, wrong list!

If you're savvy enough to be reading Budget Travel, you're already savvy enough to safeguard your financial information when you travel. But Peter Tarlow, an expert on tourism, crime, and event security for the consulting firm Tourism & More, has shared three pieces of advice with the This Just In blog. These tips may surprise you...

On hotel safes: "If you have a choice between using a safe in your room and a safe in the main hotel office, leave your belongings in the safe in the main hotel office. As a general rule, a safe under a manager's supervision is much more secure. Those safes often require double locks, for example. But if you only have an in-room safe, use it. It remains a better option than not using a safe at all. Stash your passport along with any spare cash."

On overseas restaurants: "Try to use cash as often as possible at overseas restaurants. There have been many cases of waiters stealing customer credit card information and selling it to crooks. Let's face it: You don't know what your waiter is doing with your credit card when he or she goes to the back of a restaurant. You also want to make sure that the official restaurant receipt that you leave on the table after you've paid only has the last few digits of your credit card number printed on it, not the full number. But don't get me wrong or think I'm paranoid. It's safe to travel with your credit card. And hotels and airlines have great reputations for keeping credit card information secure."

Tip on credit cards: "Let's say you're heading out on a long series of trips overseas. Let your credit card company know where you're going. There are two advantages to this. Let's say someone steals your card. If you've already alerted your credit card issuer that you would be traveling abroad, you've proven you are a responsible customer. As a result, they ought to go the extra mile to help resolve any problems that might pop up. The other advantage of calling your credit card company before you depart is that such companies are getting more aggressive about spotting unusual spending patterns on credit card accounts. If you live in, say, Indiana but your credit card suddenly starts ringing up charges at stores in, say, Bucharest, Romania, your credit card issuer might put a temporary freeze on your account. That could leave you stranded if you rely on the card to pay your expenses."

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