How prepared are You for your Long Distance Road Trip?

If you’re planning a lengthy road trip, there are many things you’d never think to bring with you that could get you out of a crisis situation. You need way more than just that blanket in the trunk, car jack and spare tire, umbrella, rainproof poncho, utility tool and fire extinguisher.


  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, wide brimmed hat
  • Cold climate: thermal underwear, wool/hat/scarf/mittens, chemical heat packs, snow boots, windshield de-icer, cat litter (cheaper and lighter than sand, will give traction to a vehicle stuck in snow/ice)

Accident/Vehicle Breakdown

  • Flares, reflective warning triangles
  • “Call Police” sign. This goes against the rear window with the message facing motorists approaching from behind. If a predator sees a stranded female motorist, he’ll be tempted to stop and assault her. But if he sees the “Call Police” sign, he has no idea if another motorist called the police and the cops are only two minutes away.
  • Head lamp (will come in handy for changing a flat tire in the dark)
  • “LifeHammer” type tool: It slices through seatbelts and smashes through glass.
  • Paperwork: auto insurance card, medical card, list of important numbers, paper pad, pen
  • First aid kit
  • The auto emergency kit should include batteries, jumper cables, antifreeze, tire inflator, tire gauge, foam tire sealant, duct tape, flash light and glow sticks.


  • Pepper spray
  • Ear horn, whistle

For Being Stranded

  • Spare water
  • Food designated for emergency use: nutrition or energy bars in a flavor you don’t like, and a few cans of dog food. Often, stranded motorists eat through their emergency food too quickly. This won’t happen if you’re looking at that gritty-tasting low carb bar or Liver Chunks dog food.
  • Small mirror (to reflect sunlight to search-and-rescue aircraft)
  • Toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, garbage bag, wire ties, urinal
  • Spare sneakers and socks


  • Car compatible phone charger, preferably solar and hand crank powered (in a separate article of mine, I discuss numerous great apps for your smartphone when driving long distance)
  • Often, before people embark on a long road trip, they have weeks, sometimes months of advance notice (such as for a move or vacation). During that time, you should commit to getting as physically fit as possible. You just never know what demands will be placed upon your body as a result of some mishap during your road trip. For example, a physically fit body can better withstand walking for long periods in the heat while carrying a toddler and rucksack than can a de-conditioned body.
  • Also during that time, take self-defense lessons.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Must-have Apps for Safe Long Distance Driving

Whether you’re driving long distance to make a career move, visit family/friends, or just sightsee multiple states, you may be wondering what kind of helpful applications for your phone are out there.

045There’s just tons, and many fall under the category of convenience, such as apps that locate the cheapest gas stations, the nearest and cheapest lodging or your favorite restaurants. But this article is about safety and security.

The issue isn’t so much what particular app to install, but the type of app, what it does. For example, there are a number of weather applications out there. Which one is best? That depends on your needs and wants. But the important thing is that you know that the category of weather should be one of your app considerations for equipping your phone.

However, I will be mentioning some applications in particular, just to give you an idea of what’s out there. For instance, there’s the iMapWeather Radio application. This works even when your phone is asleep. It will arouse your phone to alert you if you’re nearing dangerous weather. This app automatically updates to wherever you currently are located.

Additional Apps for Road Travel

  • iTriage helps you figure out medications and medical conditions. It tells you where the nearest medical treatment centers are. You can also ask medical questions and get fast answers. So if, for instance, you notice that one of your legs has begun to swell and ache after you’ve been on the road all day, you can plug in this information and see what the likely cause is. As mentioned, there are numerous apps out there that fall into specific categories; review several before making your decision.
  • Another medical app worth mentioning is smart-ICE4family. Its features include: EMS-alert and location finder if the user becomes unconscious; in addition offers a piercing siren to help locate user; and a one-button-hit provides pre-existing medical information to first responders. If you think you might accidentally drive your car into a remote lake or ditch, this app is for you.
  • wikiHow explains how to resolve countless emergency situations. Chances are, whatever fix you’re in, this app covers it. It has over 140,000 how-to articles that explain resolutions for choking, animal attacks and surviving in the wilderness.
  • is coming soon, designed to eliminate texting-caused accidents. It will read your text messages out loud. It will also read to you your e-mails. You also won’t need to touch your phone to respond.
  • Flashlight converts your phone to a flashlight. Need I say more?
  • Another category is “accidents.” If you don’t want to be overwhelmed by apps that seemingly have everything under the sun, such as the wikiHow, you can opt for applications that focus only on vehicular crashes, such as iWrecked.
  • For repairs, there’s RepairPal. You may also want to look into Collision Call.
  • Red Panic Button; the name speaks for itself. Another good app is iMPrepared.

Other categories that are must-haves for your long road trip are that of GPS and maps.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Travel Security and Identity Theft Scams

Traveling for business or pleasure is hectic, unnerving, not at all glamorous and often draining. Often, we say we need a vacation after a vacation. And when traveling, the last thing you need is to be ripped off. Things to consider:

Hotel Rooms

Hotel rooms are not secure. Just last week I entered a hotel room with somebody else’s stuff laid out on the dresser and on the bed. It’s happened to me dozens of times. Sometimes the clerk assigns the same room to two people, or the keys work in multiple rooms. Never ever leave anything of value in your room.

Rental Cars

My wife traveled to Spain, got off the plane, and rented a car, and drove off the lot. At the first stop sign, a man knocked on her passenger window and pointed, saying, “Tire, tire.” She put the car in park and walked over to the passenger side. The tire was fine and the man was gone. When she got back in the car her purse had disappeared from the front seat. Her driver’s license, passport, cash, and credit cards were all gone.

Identifying Documents

When traveling, consider carrying your essential documents in a money belt, or one that hangs from a lanyard around your neck, hidden under your shirt. You should always carry photocopies of your identification, but they won’t do you any good if they’re stored in the same purse that was just snatched from your rental car. One smart option is to scan all your pertinent documents in full color and upload them to a secure web-based encrypted digital vault.

Lost Wallet Protection

Never include your Social Security card in any of these documents. There simply isn’t a reason to have you SSN with you while traveling. Consider an identity theft protection service that includes Lost Wallet Protection: just one phone call helps you notify your bank, cancel your credit and debit card cards, and order replacement cards.

To ensure peace of mind before you travel—and year-round—subscribe to an identity theft protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

Summertime Scams and Identity Theft

For everything in life, there is a corresponding scam. Scammers spend their energy trying to separate hardworking, law-abiding citizens from their money, and they’ll take advantage of any opportunity to do so. The four seasons provide various opportunities for scams. Summers “hottest” scams include:

Stealing your mail. While you’re on vacation, your mailbox fills up with credit card offers and bank statements. The bad guy can steal this mail and use it to open new credit cards in your name, or to take over existing accounts.

Solution: Get a mailbox that locks in order to prevent thieves from stealing your mail. Have a trusted friend retrieve your mail while you’re away. Opt out of prescreened credit card offers.

Credit card fraud. Paying with cash is so 1800s! Credit cards are convenient and cleaner than dirty dollars. Therefore, credit card fraud is so 21st century! When you are out and about, anyone who handles your credit card can steal your digits and make unauthorized charges, as can anyone on the other end of an online purchase.

Solution: Check your credit card statements as frequently as possible. I recommend that you review them weekly, at a minimum. Federal law requires that credit card companies allow you to refute unauthorized charges for up to 60 days. Keep your receipts and scrutinize those statements.

Internet cafe spyware. Anytime you use any PC other than your own, your identity is at risk. Spyware is software installed on a computer that records every keystroke, username, password, and website visited. Autocomplete is a browser function that remembers your passwords. Autocomplete on a public computer means potential identity theft.

Solution: If at all possible, avoid business center or Internet cafe PCs. Many mobile phones can function as a temporary replacement for a PC, and netbooks are cheap and easy enough to travel with. If you even encounter autocomplete on any computer, turn it off before browsing and always log out and shut down a browser before walking way.

To ensure peace of mind during summertime festivities—and year-round—subscribe to an identity protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss spyware on Fox Boston. (Disclosures)

Old Credit Card Technology Facilitates Skimming Fraud

Credit and debit cards in the U.S. use old magnetic stripe technology. The magnetic stripe is the black or brown band on the back of your credit or debit card. Tiny, iron-based magnetic particles in this band store data such as your account number. When the card is swiped through a “reader,” the data stored on the magnetic stripe is accessed. Card readers and magnetic stripe technology are inexpensive and readily available, making the technology highly vulnerable to fraud.

One extremely prevalent example of such fraud is ATM skimming. Skimming occurs when a criminal copies the data stored on your card’s magnetic stripe and burns the stolen data onto a blank card, creating a clone can that be used like any normal credit or debit card.

According to the Smart Card Alliance, twenty-two countries, including China, India, Japan, Mexico, Canada, and many in Western Europe and Latin America, are migrating to encrypted microprocessor chip and PIN technology for credit and debit payments. These new “smart cards” contain an embedded microchip and are authenticated using a personal identification number, or PIN. When a customer uses a smart card to make a purchase, the card is placed into a “PIN pad” terminal or a modified swipe-card reader, which accesses the card’s microchip and verifies the card’s authenticity. The customer then enters a four digit PIN, which is checked against the PIN stored on the card.

The U.S. has yet to adopt the new smart card technology, possibly due to the higher cost. According to consulting firm Javelin Strategy & Research, converting to chip and PIN technology would cost the U.S. payment card industry about $8.6 billion, which doesn’t sound so expensive to me, considering that identity theft is a reported $50 billion problem.

U.S. travelers are encountering difficulties when attempting to use old magnetic stripe credit and debit cards abroad, since their cards do not contain the new microchips. This is especially problematic at automated kiosks, which are common in Europe. Vending machines at regional rail stations, bicycle rental racks in Paris, parking meters in parts of London, toll roads, and gas stations only accept chip and PIN cards. Visa claims that most payment terminals in countries that have adopted chip payment technology can still process old magnetic stripe U.S. cards, and, “in the rare instance that a card holder encounters a problem” at a self-service machine, Visa advises American travelers to present their cards to attendants.

My dad has U.S.-based magnetic striped cards, and he travels all over Europe and has yet to encounter a problem paying at a restaurant or in any scenario in which the card is processed by a person. However, reports that the European Payments Council, the governing body responsible for achieving a single payments market throughout Europe, is considering a ban on old technology magnetic stripe cards. This would cause major commerce problems in Europe and raises the question of whether U.S. credit card merchants will make the switch.

In the meantime, if you travel to Europe, make sure to carry cash. And if you are likely to use a kiosk that can only process cards with chip and PIN technology, do your homework ahead of time to determine whether an alternative payment methods is available.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert adviser to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses credit and debit card fraud on CNBC. (Disclosures)

My Mexican Travel Security Ordeal

Mexico has made the news over and over due to their “Narco Wars”. 10’s of thousands have been murdered and kidnapped in many of the border towns all the way down to Acapulco. So where do I vacation? Mexico. It’s an easy trip, its economically smart, it’s usually warm and sunny, the foods good, the people are great, and there’s always a good story to tell. I do my homework and understand where the risks are and aren’t.

I don’t stay in the border towns. That’s where a lot of the bad stuff is happening. Border towns are mostly landlocked, so no ocean, and there isn’t much as far as vacationing goes. We like the beaches and prefer southern resort towns that cater to making me happy.

In my last Mexican adventure we were picked up at the airport by a car service recommended by the hotel. I usually get in the front seat so I can see where we are going and I like to have a little control. I put my laptop and backpack up front with me, but then the wife asked me to come to the back seat, which I did. But there was no room for the bags, so they stayed up front. The van was clean, and the ride was the typical white knuckler, hold on for dear life, the driver is a nut, and when was the last time this thing had its brakes checked.”

When we got to the resort we were swarmed with hotel help/bellmen pulling our bags out of the van. As I’m counting bags and counting kids and on my way back to the van to get my 2 other bags, the van drove away. My laptop and backpack were still in the front seat. ON THE FRONT SEAT. There is no way the driver didn’t see the laptop on the front seat. I frantically went to the bellman to call the security dude at the entrance to the property to stop the van. Ten minutes goes by and they said he must have gone another way because he never went back through security.

I got the car service on the phone to call the driver and they said he wasn’t answering his phone. Of course he wasn’t answering his phone, he was selling my laptop. 20 minutes goes by and I fear he’s got this thing hocked. Then another driver from the same company pulled into the resorts entrance and I flagged him down. I told him to call the driver and tell him I left 2 bags in the van. He called, the driver picked up the phone. Nailed. He answered for his buddy but not his boss.

He showed up 20 minutes later. When he pulled up he was dismissive and rude. He knows he was “caught” but didn’t even offer a response. My laptop was now on the front floor of the van, the bag had been gone through and the backpack was in the back seat of the van. He obviously tossed it there.

I never told resort security, the bellman or the car service over the phone that “my bags” that were in the van consisted of a laptop. But when resort security and the bellman saw me pull the laptop out, they all nodded their heads shaking them and proceeded to understand why he drove off.

Moral of the story: if you don’t want it stolen, don’t leave it out of your site. Because any opportunity to distract you and take your stuff, the bad guy will.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing Home Security and Identity Theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures.

Replacing Stolen Passports and Credit Cards

Travel season is upon us. Summertime is all about exploring new and exciting places. It’s the season of planes, trains, automobiles and…criminals. When you are out of your element and unsure of your surroundings, you are at a higher degree of risk. Travelers need to be on high alert for property crimes and identity theft.

Years ago, before my wife was my wife, she was traveling in Spain. She got off the plane, headed for the rental car terminal, rented her car, and drove off the lot. At the first stop sign, a man knocked on her passenger window and pointed, saying, “Tire, tire.” She put the car in park and walked over to the passenger side. The tire was fine and the man was gone. So she got back in the car and found that her purse had disappeared from the front seat. Her driver’s license, passport, cash, and credit cards were all gone. What a nightmare! When she went to the police, they asked, “Were you a victim of the flat tire scam?”

You’d think the rental car agency could have warned her. But the lesson here is that you cannot rely on others to protect you. You are ultimately responsible for your personal security.

Fortunately, she is a resourceful person and was able to handle the crisis quickly and efficiently. If your passport is ever lost or stolen in a foreign country, you can apply for an emergency replacement at the nearest embassy. Generally you’ll need to show up in person, and it helps to have a traveling companion to vouch for you. The embassy will need to see some type of verification of your identity, and they’ll likely request a copy of the police report.

When traveling, consider carrying your essential documents in a money belt or one that hangs from a lanyard around your neck, hidden under your shirt. You should always carry photocopies of your identification, but they won’t do you any good if they’re stored in the same purse that was just snatched from your rental car. One smart option is to scan all your pertinent documents in full color and upload them to a secure web-based encrypted digital vault. Some of these services are free, while others charge a small fee. In a pinch, you can download the necessary document from any computer with Internet access, and print a new copy.

For more information on coping with a lost or stolen password, see this list of frequently asked questions.

A lost or stolen credit card requires a different course of action, and its effectiveness largely depends on your preparation. Before traveling, call your card issuer and inquire about their policy for replacing a card. Pack a copy of your credit card that includes the front and back impression. If your credit card is lost or stolen, call the issuer and cancel the card as quickly as possible to mitigate any losses. In the best case scenario, the company should issue a replacement card and ship it overnight at no charge. Most card issuers will accommodate you, and if you find out ahead of time they won’t, find another card issuer.

In an emergency, you can always ask a friend or family member to wire you money. When a U.S. citizen encounters an emergency financial situation abroad, the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) can establish a trust account in the citizen’s name to forward funds overseas. Upon receipt of funds, OCS will transfer the money to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate for disbursement to the recipient. The State Department’s travel website offers more details on emergency money transfers.

And always be sure to carry some spare cash. Tuck it in that money belt so even if your purse or wallet is stolen, you’ll be in good shape.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert adviser to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses travel security on Fox News. (Disclosures)

Identity Theft Expert and Speaker on Personal Security Offers Nine Tips to Help Holiday Travelers Reduce Their Risk of Falling Prey to Crime

(BOSTON, Mass. – Nov. 16, 2007 – A number of reports have, as in years’ past, cited the sharp spike in travel expected over the holiday season, which is set to begin next week. Robert Siciliano, a widely televised and quoted personal security and identity theft expert, offered advice for all travelers to follow, helping them to avoid falling prey to predators and other criminals while away from home.

“Criminals love it when we’re distracted,” said Robert Siciliano. “They’re best able to steal from us, or assault us, when we’re off guard, and travelers are often most likely to be so. Luckily, we can implement simple measures to reduce our risks.”

CEO of and a member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report’s editorial board, Siciliano leads Fortune 500 companies and their clients in workshops that explore consumer education solutions for security issues. An experienced identity theft speaker and author of “The Safety Minute: 01,” he has discussed data security, consumer protection, and personal security issues such as self-defense on numerous television outlets, including CNBC, on NBC’s “Today Show,” and FOX News.

On Nov. 14, published an article on safe driving tips, and on the same day, the Monticello Herald Journal quoted law enforcement officials saying the day for Thanksgiving sees the most travel of the season. Siciliano shared nine tips designed to help holiday travelers stay safe during this time of year:

1. Securing your mobile computing equipment: Reports of laptop thefts have dominate the news. Those planning to bring work with them on their holiday travels should secure their mobile computing equipment with technology that guards and retrieves the data on these machines once in the hands of thieves. Once such product, MyLaptopGPS™, allows users, from a remote location, not only to retrieve and delete data from the lost machine, but also to track the device’s whereabouts with Internet-based GPS tracking.

2. Protecting your identity: It may seem old-fashioned, but consider paying with cash whenever possible; even better, try travelers’ checks. Plastic is susceptible to fraud. For instance, unscrupulous wait staff might use a wedge-type device to illegally swipe and capture patrons’ credit card information. A traveler should remember to be careful with credit cards and, also, to exercise caution when divulging a Social Security number. To learn more about identity theft, readers may watch video of Siciliano at VideoJug.

3. Understanding the fundamentals: Body language is 55 percent of communication. Strive to appear in control of yourself and your plans. Be alert to your surroundings. At all times, know what is going on 50 feet to 100 feet around the perimeter of your body. Voice tone and pitch equal 35 percent of communication. The way you communicate physically and verbally can determine whether a predator deems you a good target, so be confident and succinct.

4. Airport awareness: Airports are havens for criminals. Pay full attention to your belongings when airport security screens you. Fully cooperate with security personnel and be patient. Beware of strangers who are distracting or watching you.

5. Preventing abductions: Returning to a parked car, scan the area around it and watch for suspicious activity. Vans are telltale signs of foul play waiting to happen. Abductors and rapist will open the side door and pull their victims inside.

6. Pickpockets and thieves: Do not fight over material items. Carry currency in small amounts and denominations. Keep it in an easily accessible pocket. If someone tries to rob you, throw the “chump change” several feet away. This will distract the robber and give you time to escape.

7. Telephone basics: Protect your calling card number. Be wary of everyone around you as you enter this number. In airports, thieves could be videotaping a “going away” couple right behind you as you punch in your digits. The person standing at the phone next to you could be relaying your number to an accomplice.

8. Rental cars and transportation: Hide rental agreements, dead giveaways that you are traveling. Keep these off the dash. Don’t store valuables in the trunk, as many rental cars use a universal key to unlock everything. If you lose the ignition key, you may very well lose everything. Should you find yourself in a minor accident, stop only in a well-lit area. Carjackers provoke such “accidents” just to get travelers to stop. Do not stop on a deserted, dark street.

9. Staying at the hotel: Be suspicious of a call from the hotel desk just after check-in. The person on the other end of the phone may request verification of your credit card number “because the imprint was unreadable.” In reality, a thief may have watched you enter the hotel room and called from the guest phone in the lobby.

“On your way to visit family, make regular calls to loved ones and let them know where you are,” Siciliano concluded. “This ensures that they’ll have the most accurate idea possible of your whereabouts should a predator get the best of you.”


Identity theft affects us all. Robert Siciliano, CEO of and member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report’s editorial board, makes it his mission to provide consumer education solutions on identity theft to Fortune 500 companies and their clients.

A leader of personal safety and security seminars nationwide, Siciliano has been featured on “The Today Show,” CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, “FOX News,” “The Suze Orman Show,” “The Montel Williams Show,” “Maury Povich,” “Sally Jesse Raphael,” “The Howard Stern Show,” and “Inside Edition.” The Privacy Learning Institute features him on its Website. Numerous magazines, print news outlets, and wire services have turned to him, as well, for expert commentary on personal security and identity theft. These include Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, United Press International, Reuters, and others.

Visit Siciliano’s Web site, blog, and YouTube page.

The media are encouraged to get in touch with Siciliano directly:

Robert Siciliano, Personal Security Expert
CEO of
PHONE: 888-SICILIANO (742-4542)
FAX: 877-2-FAX-NOW (232-9669)

The media may also contact:

Brent W. Skinner
President & CEO of STETrevisions
PHONE: 617-875-4859
FAX: 866-663-6557