Theft thwarters abroad
Research and Readjust Your Attitude
Awareness is your best weapon
Example: Sneaky thieves prey on tourists watching street entertainment.
Remedy: Enjoy the entertainment, but keep a hand on your valuables or your backpack on your chest.
Telegraph signals of confidence and awareness.
Maintain a low profile in public. Dress down. Try to blend in.
Familiarize yourself with the foreign currency you’ll be using and its exchange rate.
Write down your credit card account numbers and the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost.
It is rarely necessary to carry your passport once you’ve arrived at your destination. Keep it locked up with your airline tickets, and carry a photocopy of the first page instead.
Make photocopies of all travel documents, including tickets, passports, and itinerary. Carry the copies separate from the originals.
As an ultimate back-up plan, send an email to yourself with attached copies of all your travel documents, including tickets, the first two pages of your passport, and itinerary. You might also include your hotel information, traveler’s check numbers, and other important phone numbers. If you lose your documents, vital information is as close as the nearest Internet access point.
Your home address should not be visible on your luggage.
Find a way to attach a permanent ID to the outside of your bag.
Personalize your suitcase with something obvious that won’t fall off.
Be particularly vigilant at the security checkpoint. Do not put your valuable on the conveyor belt until you are certain you can walk through the metal detector. If someone suddenly cuts in front of you, beware! A common criminal strategy swiftly separates you from your goods when the interloper is required to back up and empty his pockets. While you are delayed, your belongings travel to the other side of security where, of course, they instantly acquire new owners. In this team sport, your purse or laptop is both goal and prize.
Be aware that carry-on allowance may be severely limited on flights originating outside of America. Roll-aboards allowed within the United States may be required to fly cargo on foreign flights. Choose a lockable carry-on, or keep a canvas tote handy for your valuables and necessities in case your bag is taken away for cargo.
Promptly retrieve luggage from the baggage claim area.
Pay particular attention to your property on airport-to-city trains.
Keep bags away from an open window.
If possible, tie or lock your luggage to something using wire or a cable lock.
Sleep on top of your cash, passports, and small valuables.
Don’t accept food or drink from strangers.
Don’t leave your food or drink unattended.
Luggage storage is tricky: if your bags are stowed beneath the bus, keep an eye on them at every stop to be sure they don’t walk away. Roof storage is risky and potentially wet.
Use your door’s deadbolt or chain latch at night. Place a chair in front of the door if there is none.
Do not leave small, tempting valuables lying around in your room.
Don’t expect miracles from tiny padlocks or zipper tabs. A zipper tab is easily twisted off. Yet, in some cases, any lock is better than no lock.
When forced to carry valuables, split them up in different pockets and carry whatever you can on your body in pouches, money belt, or even in pockets.
In nightclubs, try not to leave your drink unattended. This is especially important for women. Drink-drugging is a growing problem.
4. How to Foil the Opportunist.
Everyday Travel-Safe Habits
Never flash your money. Try not to reveal where you keep it.
Be suspicious of bumps or jostles. They could be a distraction.
Beware the sheet of cardboard of newspaper pushed against you.
Be wary of hoards of friendly children with inquisitive hands.
Beware aggressive beggars.
Where to Carry Cash and Valuables
Keep your wallet in your tightest pocket; button the pocket if it has one.
Turning your wallet sideways may make it more difficult for a thief to remove.
Loose or gaping front pants pockets are invitations to a thief. So is a wallet that protrudes from a back pocket.
Velcro and zippers are deterrents, but no pocket is pick-proof.
If you carry a purse, try to give it nerve endings: hold it snug against your body, never let it stick out behind you, and especially never let it stick out behind you open.
Use a wide-strapped bag and wear the strap diagonally across your chest, or a short-strapped one with the purse tucked under your arm.
Keep your bag closed properly. If it has a flap, wear the flap against your body.
Keep your wallet at the bottom of your purse.
Never hang your purse on the back of a chair in a public place. Keep it on your lap. If you must put it on the floor, tuck the strap under your thigh, or put the chair leg through it.
If your bag is snatched, let it go.
Fanny packs are safe if you secure the zippers.
5. Public Transportation
The moments of entering and exiting crowded public transportation are your most vulnerable and a thief’s most rewarding.
If you’re pick pocketed in a crowd, try demanding the return of your item. It might mysteriously hit the floor. Shout out, too, on the off chance an undercover police officer nearby.
If your bag is grabbed, let go. Nothing is worth the physical risk to you.
Go to a transportation desk in an airport or train station when you arrive, and don’t get waylaid by an interloper.
Before getting in a cab, and before loading your bags in, agree on a price with the cab driver or on using the meter.
6. Stymie the Strategist
If you’re questioned by a policeman, ask to see his ID. A bona fide law enforcement officer won’t be offended. An imposter will usually scram.
Public Restrooms: Rude, but true: you may or may not notice a hand reach over the door and snag your bag off the hook at the most inopportune moment. Loop the strap around the hook and keep your eye on it. Dropped coins in the stall next to you could be a distraction ruse.
Helpful Cleaners: Heads up if you hear “something dirty got on you – let me help you clean it off.” He’ll clean you out.