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Protect your accounts while vacationing

Simple steps can help you avoid theft, hassle

SAN ANTONIO – Summer vacation often means fun in the sun, but if you don't take financial precautions, you can get burned.

"We need to protect ourselves," said Estrella Garcia-Diaz, with Jefferson Bank. She offered ways to prevent credit card fraud and identity theft while you're away from home.

First, give your bank a call and let them know where you are going, Garcia-Diaz said. 

"We're going to make sure that any transactions that are coming through are coming through at locations that you specified you will be," she said.

If your card accounts are used where you are not, the bank can take quicker action to freeze or block the account.

"Also, you want to set up text alerts," Garcia-Diaz said. "That is probably the quickest way to find out if something happened on your credit cards or debit cards that was not yours."

Pack light. Generally, two cards will do. Garcia-Diaz advises people to not carry their cards together. Keep one on you for sightseeing and one in the hotel safe. Use credit cards instead of debit, because credit card protections are stronger.

Write down the emergency contact numbers on those credit cards in case they are lost or stolen.

If you do need cash, be choosy about an ATM. Experts say to be warier of stand-alone ATMs that may provide more opportunity for a skimmer to be planted than those inside a bank lobby. Skimming devices can steal your data.

Sure, you want to be connected, but Garcia-Diaz cautions about hooking up to the internet using public Wi-Fi or hotspots. The airport or hotel business center may not be the best place to conduct online banking.

Check your statements for irregular activity and keep your cellphone and laptop password-protected.

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