Subject: Identity theft
Hi Ziners,

I've become a victim of identity theft. Nefarious souls (a kind term for what I think of these people) hacked into the bank system and wiped out my bank acount on Thursday morning. Later in the day they took cash advances from my credit card. Neither card has ever been out of my possession. I never use either card for cash advances or debit or on the internet. I suspect this is an inside job and fortunately the bank has been very co-operative. All transactions will be reversed so I won't lose any money, though I feel sick about this.

It did occur to me that if this had happened while I was travelling, I'd be in a real pickle. I've learned, after many hours speaking to bank staff, that these thefts often occur during the lead-up to Christmas.

When travelling, we have occasionally had ATMs reject our card. Quite often on cruise ships our credit cards have been rejected. In the latter case we've spent some time on the phone to Visa and Mastercard to correct the situation and fortunately the cruise line has waived the ship-to-shore charge. Leads me to believe that this is not an uncommon occurence. This has happened despite pre-trip calls to inform the banks that we would be travelling outside Canada. I should add that our cards are always clear before we travel. What more can we do?

So my question. How do you protect yourself when travelling? How many phone calls do we have to make to ensure that our credit cards will be accepted? I don't want to carry travellers cheques and a load of cash is not an option. Nor do I want to depend on family to wire money if we're stuck for cash.

Help! Burned once so now I'm concerned.

Lucy, Toronto