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Travel Fraud: Are You the Culprit?
(ARA) -- Whether it's a holiday road trip or a multi-week international excursion, traveling can be stressful -- especially when it comes to money. Stories of fraud and identity theft have become seemingly commonplace.

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The reality is, each year fewer people are victims of money-related crime while traveling. Security measures continue to advance and make finances safer than ever. In fact, protection has strengthened so much that travelers are experiencing new problems -– card companies are often placing their accounts on hold, limiting access to money because of assumed fraud.

According to Kathy Herziger, vice president of product development at CO-OP Financial Services, the nation's largest credit union service organization, "Credit and debit cards are incorporating new technology to thwart identity theft and fraud. Now, if a card is used abroad, or an unusual purchase is detected, the account will be suspended until the cardholder verifies its legitimacy."

Though this increased level of security provides cashmere-like comfort at home, what about when you're the person making those out-of-the-ordinary purchases?

"Chances are your account will be blocked," says Herziger. "Actually, this is what you want to happen; it's great protection if your card is stolen. The problem occurs when the card company looks into a suspicious transaction, but can't reach you."

Being away from home without access to your finances can be frustrating, if not entirely debilitating. So how can you protect your account and ensure that you'll still have access to it while traveling? Herziger has some tips to prepare for your next trip.

Share Travel Information

Before leaving town, inform card carriers of any expected travels or transactions that might garner suspicion. CO-OP Financial Services offers "Concierge Service" for credit union members, allowing cardholders to share travel plans, restrict certain locations and provide a phone number where they can be reached.

Change Funds at ATMs

When traveling internationally, use ATMs to change currency. Cardholders usually won't incur conversion fees at an ATM and will receive funds in that country's currency. Many scams occur while exchanging money with less than reputable vendors, making ATMs the safest avenue for cash on the international road.

Use Prepaid Debit Cards

Consider traveling with reloadable prepaid debit cards, rather than a debit card linked back to an account. "Reloadable cards are a great way to protect your accounts without limiting access to money," says Herziger. "CO-OP will offer them because they're similar to traveler's checks, but with the convenience of an ATM card."

Make Copies of Your Cards

When reporting a missing card, valuable time is lost without the phone number on the back. Bring a list of each of your card's customer service numbers and leave photocopies, front and back, for reference in a safe place at home.

By communicating and using these preventative planning tips, you can minimize the stress of traveling –- at least when it comes to protecting your account. As Ben Franklin said, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

To find out more about account security innovations, or to find out if your credit union is a part of CO-OP Financial Services, visit www.co-opfs.org.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

© 2007 ARAcontent

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.

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