I was sitting in a café in Paris with my purse hanging from the back of my chair. When I got up I noticed that someone had reached into the purse and stolen my cell phone and wallet.”
“I was staying at a hotel in Aruba. I left my cell phone in the room and went to the pool. When I returned, I noticed my phone was missing the SIM card.”
“My bag did not fit in the overhead compartment and I was forced to gate check it. When I retrieved my bag after the flight I noticed that both my iPad and medications were gone.”
We hear these reports frequently from American travelers returning from international vacations. All too often we take abroad the same confidence we feel when vacationing domestically. The following tips will provide a quick checklist to avoid becoming victims of crime overseas.
- Don’t take electronic devices or valuables that you don’t need, and never store the valuables or electronics you do take in checked luggage.
- Before you travel, clean up your laptop, cellphone, and portable device of personal information by clearing your browser history and cache (including saved usernames and passwords), deleting favorite sites that could expose personal information or browsing habits, removing any personal data, pictures, and work that could be used against you, and remove any phone contact lists that could be stolen and made targets of fraud and phishing scams.
- Before you travel, take time to backup all your electronic devices including cell phones and ensure that all your antivirus and security patches are up to date.
- Don’t expect privacy abroad, as many countries do not have the same protections as the United States. Any cell phone conversation and email may be intercepted locally.
- Assume that all free Wi-Fi is insecure, and avoid it if possible, as your web browsing activity is likely being viewed by a third party.
- Report any stolen devices to the American Embassy or Consulate, as soon as possible.
- Consider purchasing a cheap disposable phone before you leave and obtaining an inexpensive regional pre-paid SIM card at the airport of your destination.
- As standard procedure, leave a copy of your passport, itinerary, and important phone numbers with a family member or friend, should they need to quickly access the information and get it to you.
- Become familiar with local laws and customs to avert offending your host community by reviewing the US State Department and CIA World Factbook websites for any travel warnings and tips about your location.
- Maintain a low profile about your status as a tourist. Avoid being the obvious American.
- With a little preparation, we should be able to avoid becoming the victim of crime during our international vacations. And during our stay, our behavior will help to keep us safe as long as it is discreet, respectful, and understated.