E-mail access of private info

This is in response to the question about carrying copies of important documents and other key information on a flash memory drive (July ’06, pg. 88).

I think it’s a good idea but only if the flash drive can be password-protected. Otherwise, the potential costs of losing it or having it stolen are too great.

Also, I wonder if a U.S. embassy or consulate would be willing to put the flash drive into one of its computers, in light of the widespread concerns about computer viruses, and I doubt that an airline would be able to do it at the airport. I suspect the computers at airport check-in counters aren’t equipped with extra USB ports.

Here’s another option for those with Hotmail, Yahoo or Google e-mail accounts or any other e-mail account that you can access abroad without difficulty. Copy all of the information you might need (such as credit card numbers, plane ticket numbers, emergency phone numbers, etc.) and also scan your passport information page and other similar documents and then e-mail them to yourself. Then you always can access what you need at any Internet café or hotel business center, but no one else can.

This will work better for information that you can include in the text of an e-mail message. Scanned documents that are attached to e-mail messages may not be as convenient to open, depending on the speed of the computer you’re using and the software that’s loaded on it.

I used to carry a list of credit card numbers and the phone numbers to call in case they were lost or stolen. But I finally realized just how dangerous that was. Now I’m depending on my Hotmail account, which I can access anywhere in the world where I can find a computer with Internet access — and, increasingly, that’s almost anywhere.

Even if you don’t use one of these free e-mail accounts at home, it may be worth opening one to use while traveling.

Washington, D.C.