Human Resources

Train Your Traveling Employees to Avoid Identity Theft

By Mike Kelly

It’s not uncommon in today’s global business environment to have employees traveling abroad. It’s important to keep these traveling employees informed so that they don’t become victims of identity theft or other crime. Here with tips on addressing the issue is an article by Mike Kelly, CEO of On Call International.

Roughly every 2 seconds, someone is victim to identity fraud, and international travelers are nearly three times more likely to experience fraud. Why?

Well, for starters, business travelers are often easy targets to spot—the way they dress, the devices they use, and the places they stay can give them away. And they’re even more vulnerable when they’re carrying sensitive company and personal information in unfamiliar environments. As such, it’s critical for HR professionals to plan ahead and educate their globally mobile staffers on how to reduce the risk of having their identities unsuspectingly swiped.

In an age where notifying banks about itineraries and carrying less cash is no longer enough, here are some guidelines that organizations should be sure to address with their travelers:

1. Passports: Your Travel “Best Friend”

Keeping passports safe should be a top priority for all travelers. A lost or stolen passport not only leads to travel delays and headaches but it could also lead to identity theft. Employees should be given the following advice prior to departure:

  • Keep it concealed. Walking around with a passport can make travelers an easy target because it’s a way for others to identity that they’re from another country.
  • Store it properly. Once travelers arrive at their destinations, they should store their passports only in a secure safe and never leave it in the hotel room unattended. If there is no safe in the room, travelers can ask the front desk if they have a safe to store personal belongings.
  • Make copies. Prior to leaving, employees should make several copies of their passports. They should lock one copy in their suitcase or backpack (in case the original is lost or stolen), keep one copy at home, and leave another with a trusted family member or friend.
  • Keep it in sight. If employees are asked to show their passports to local authorities, they should keep it in sight at all times. To avoid any issues with incorrect travel documents (which could result in detainment), help employees research ahead of time what type of documentation is required. It’s also critical to stress the importance of never placing the passport where it can easily be grabbed or left behind.


If an employee’s passport is lost or stolen while traveling, he or she should report it to local authorities as well as to the company’s travel risk management firm immediately. Your travel risk management firm will be able to walk them through the process of what to do in this situation, including locating and getting to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

2. Public Computers and Wi-Fi: Convenient but Risky  

Public computers and free Wi-Fi can be extremely convenient for business travelers, but they can also make sensitive information vulnerable. Public computers are great for reading the news or simply browsing the web, but they should never be used to make sensitive transactions or do company work, as a thief could be controlling the network.

To help mitigate the risk of your employees’ and your organization’s information from being compromised, remind travelers to do the following when using a public computer or Wi-Fi:

  • Never autosave information on forms.
  • Avoid checking bank account balances.
  • Select “No” if asked to save any passwords.
  • Delete search history.
  • Understand and confirm which files are saved to their personal computer versus the company network.
  • Use only encrypted websites (“https” in the URL).
  • Make sure you have backed up your computer prior to departure.


It’s also important to work with your IT department to institute sound international data security policies. For example, many companies mandate their travelers to use rental devices instead of personal equipment, which limits the amount of data at risk should employees’ laptops, tablets, or phones be lost, stolen, or searched. Loaner devices can also be easily wiped after a trip. Also, many companies require the use of Virtual Private Networking (VPN) to connect to company resources outside the office. With a VPN, business data is virtually inaccessible to hackers, and passwords and logins are encrypted.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Kelly provides more precautions for employees to take while traveling abroad.