How do I prevent travel theft

7 Common Types of Theft Abroad - How to Protect Your Money While Traveling

While we can't travel as often as we'd like, my wife and I love planning and taking trips, from outdoor adventure field trips and fitness vacations to short trips home to get back in touch with family get. Regardless of the destination, we both enjoy escaping our daily routine and being part of something else for a while - both during planning and throughout the trip.

Due to budget and time constraints, we haven't had the opportunity to go on an international vacation. (We agreed not to count our day trip to Windsor, Ontario a few years ago.) But we will eventually. When that day comes we will face a whole host of headaches and considerations that have not yet come into play in our domestic trips, such as entry visas and dealing with language barriers.

Other considerations that apply to both domestic and international travel give the latter greater concern. The most important ones include keeping money and identity documents safe while traveling.

I will never forget the moment when I was standing on a crowded metro platform in Barcelona and noticed the guy next to me reaching for the wallet in my pocket. I casually slapped his hand away and moved to another part of the platform, my wallet still firmly in my possession. But if I had been less vigilant - or he was a better pickpocket - I would soon have been studying Spanish in the waiting room of an equally overcrowded police station.

All in all, I just got away with it. My would-be pickpocket was incapable, his methods decidedly low-tech. There are plenty of other ways to free hapless international travelers from their credit cards, cash, and identification documents, many of which are shockingly sophisticated.

Common types of theft while traveling abroad

Criminals are nothing if not creative, so this should not be construed as a comprehensive list of the types of theft you might experience while traveling abroad. These are just a few of the most common and best documented.

1. Pickpocketing

Pickpocketing is a bit misleading: a thief who throws a finger is just as likely to get a wallet, cell phone, or wad of money out of a shoulder bag or purse than your pocket. Basically, pickpocketing describes any situation where you are stripped of valuables that you are physically carrying without even realizing it is happening.

2. Raid

Assault is the taking of valuables through violence or threat of violence. Although the archetypal robbery takes place in a dark alley or dimly lit back street, usually by knife or pistol attack, robberies can also occur in broad daylight or in crowded public places without a heavy police presence.

In fact, public spaces and busy streets provide better escape routes for attackers. If you can easily merge into a crowd, it will be much easier to knock your victim down, take their purse, and run away without being followed.

3. Distraction schemes

While diversions are similar to pickpocketing and mugging, they tend to be more complicated and often involve couples or groups of thieves working together. The basic concept is that a leading thief creates a situation that distracts your attention and allows the thief or a co-worker to rid you of valuables. Within this framework, the possibilities are endless.

A common plan: a seemingly helpful colleague offers to put his bag in a bus or a train rack and then hand it over to a light-footed partner who leaves the vehicle before it moves. Another plan: You are walking in a crowded public square when the person in front of you suddenly stops and forces you to stop. While he or she apologizes and maybe asks you a key question, his or her partner sneaks after you, grabs your bag or purse and disappears into the crowd.

4. Bag operations

Bag operations typically involve the theft of (or from) travel bags held in public or semi-public areas, such as locked cabins at the train station or seemingly secure storage areas behind the hotel desk. Bag operations can be opportunistic, for example when a single criminal detects a lock and picks up his bag. They can also be frighteningly well organized, for example when an employee of a hotel allows an employee to access the storage area under their supervision when no one is looking, possibly tampering with security material or disarming alarm systems.

In very sophisticated pocket operations, the thieves or thieves can quickly copy, photograph, or otherwise record sensitive documents and financial information such as credit card or passport numbers without taking anything. You won't be left with anything until your bank or credit card issuer registers suspicious account activity.

5. Counterfeit money

Counterfeits fall victim to travelers who are unfamiliar with the look and feel of their destination's paper currency. They occur regularly at restaurants and other service providers with invisible payment terminals.

In a typical fake change fraud, you pay for your meal with a single large bill, such as a bill. B. a 50 or 100 euro note. The server responds with an identical invoice, returns it to you, apologetically informs you that it is a fake and asks for a different method of payment (e.g. a credit card or several small bills).

But you were: The bill with which you originally paid was the real one, and it is now on the bottom of the cash register or in the pocket of the person waiting. The returned invoice is actually the fake.

6. Wireless identity theft

Wireless identity theft, sometimes called contactless pickpocketing, is a new high-tech trend in travel theft - and any payment or identification card with an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chip is vulnerable. Broken cards are already ubiquitous in Europe and other parts of the world. They are also becoming increasingly popular in the US - many US credit and debit cards that have been issued since 2014 have one. All US passports issued since 2006 are also chipped.

Wireless identity theft occurs when hackers use radio frequency devices to compromise supposedly secure RFID chips, steal account information such as credit card numbers, and personal identification information such as social security numbers and home addresses. The hackers (or whoever they sell the stolen data to) then use this information to conduct fraudulent transactions, open credit accounts on behalf of the victim, or impersonate victims for nefarious purposes.

Wireless identity theft is even more insidious than traditional pickpocketing, which is usually discovered within a few hours because it can go unnoticed for days or weeks. In many cases, victims do not know what happened until questionable activity hits their accounts.

7. ATM skimming

ATM skimming is one of the most common and difficult-to-detect forms of ATM theft. A skimmer is a super-thin card reader that fits in or around the actual card reader of an ATM and inconspicuously scans the magnetic stripe of every card inserted. (Since cards with increased security RFID chips have redundant information in their stripes, they are also vulnerable.)

Discerning thieves typically pair skimmers with hidden cameras that capture machine users 'keystrokes and card PINs, or fake keyboards that record users' PINs directly. Since skimming forces thieves to return to an ATM at least twice - once to install the skimmer and camera and once to get them - the practice is more common at remote ATMs that are not monitored by surveillance cameras, and is more frequently visited by their owners.

How to keep your money and valuables safe while you are traveling

With these common types of travel theft, one of the easiest ways to keep money, valuables, and personal information safe while traveling is to consider the following.

1. Minimize the use of physical cash

If you lose paper or metal money, it's gone forever. In contrast, it is often - though not always - possible to successfully dispute fraudulent charges on a stolen card. Cash is also easy to forge, while plastic cards are basically impossible to counterfeit unless the data on them is stolen through skimming or RFID theft.

For these two reasons, carry the minimum amount of cash that you plan to use during an excursion. Even if it is common practice for merchants in your destination country to transfer interchange fees to buyers (this is common in New Zealand, for example), the extra 2% to 4% is a small price to pay to avoid debilitating financial loss. And when you need to use physical money, use small bills that are not as prone to fake amendment fraud.

2. Use an RFID blocking money belt

If you know something, or if your cards are chipped (or even if you're not sure), invest in a money belt that can block RFID signals. Money belts come in a variety of shapes - some resemble fanny packs, other purses, and still others more compact purses. All have a rugged construction and basic physical security features such as zippers and RFID blocking features.

Many are small and sleek enough to hide under your clothes and avoid visibly advertising the presence of your valuables. And they're a worthwhile investment, especially if you're traveling abroad in some form. The Eagle Creek RFID Blocker Money Belt DLX, a well-tested model, is on sale online for a reasonable price of $ 25 to $ 30.

3. Avoid visibly displaying money and valuables

The would-be pickpocket in Barcelona picked me because I was an easy target: my wallet was basically hanging out of my pocket, visible to any attentive onlooker. Avoid making this mistake in public by keeping your wallet, cash, cards and other valuables deep in a pocket or purse, or in a hidden (inside) pocket.

If none of these options are available, at least avoid keeping valuables where they can be identified by their shape - for example, a back pocket that shows the curve of your wallet or phone. And don't flash flash or cards in public unless you want to make a thief day.

4. Keep valuables in several places

Keep money and other valuables in as many places as you want (and easy to remember). This applies to valuables that are carried by you and kept in your hotel.

When you are out and about, take only the bare essentials with you and leave the rest in your room safe, hotel safe or other secure storage location. Share the cards, cash, and ID documents you need when you are on the move, between a money belt, bags or purse. Using multiple storage locations ensures that an opportunistic thief cannot get by with all of his money and valuables in one fell swoop.

5. Record important financial information and keep it separate

Being a victim of financial or identity theft abroad, whatever the result, is frightening, disorienting, and inconvenient. The last thing you want to do on your vacation is spend hours on the phone with your bank, state ID, or US consulate. To minimize the inconvenience of theft abroad, keep photocopies (or high quality pictures) of all documents and cards that you plan to take with you on your trip and keep them in a safe place.

The best practice is to make a set of physical copies and keep them in a safe place at home, where only a trusted partner can access them if necessary, and then take a second set of copies and keep them in a safe location in your hotel room . Some travel experts recommend making electronic copies and storing them on your computer, flash drive, or secure cloud storage service - but keep in mind that electronic records can be compromised.

Additionally, if you regularly use cash during your trip, you will need to write down the serial number for each large bill you come across (the equivalent of $ 20 or more). Serial numbers come in handy when you are the victim of a fraudulent fraud and decide to report the incident to the police, although they alone cannot guarantee the return of your stolen funds.

6. Be smart about ATM usage

Minimizing cash use is the best way to avoid loss or theft, but avoiding paper or metal payments abroad is not always possible. If you need more cash than you brought with you, then you should be smart about how to use ATMs at your destination.

Avoid ATMs in remote or confusing areas first, as these are more likely to be staked by muggers, especially at night. Also, avoid third-party ATMs, especially if they are old or infrequently used. Such ATMs are likely to be less secure or, depending on where you are, may be set up for the express purpose of scamming unsuspecting tourists.

Instead, research the top banks at your destination and stick with ATMs that have their brands on them. Whenever possible, only use branded ATMs in a secure bank lobby or doorway where skimming and PIN theft cameras are far less common.

7. Keep a close watch on your pockets

When it comes to your travel bags, you just can't be overprotective enough. Whenever you are in a crowded public place, keep physical contact with your bags whenever possible. If you need to lower your bags for a moment just to read a guidebook, don't walk away from them. Do not put them on security tapes at airports until the last second, i.e. only when you are waved by the body scanner.

And no matter how nice they seem, never allow a casual bystander to help you with your bags. Only uniformed personnel, such as B. Hotel workers, should handle your luggage - and even then be suspicious of someone who is vague about their role. (Hiring hotel workers, private security guards, and even the local or federal police force is a lucrative scam in some countries.)

8. Inform your financial services provider of your travel plans

Before embarking on a trip abroad, put aside the cards you would like to take with you and inform each exhibitor of your travel plans, preferably with specific dates and locations. This will reduce the chances that your lender will believe your overseas deals are fraudulent and your account is potentially fraudulent very keeps impractical while it sort out the situation.

Equally important is giving your issuers an overview of where you are (and when you plan to be there) the impact of actual Reduce fraud when a stolen card or account number registers activity in a place you are not supposed to be. For example, if your credit card is lost on the last day of your trip to Thailand and shows up in China a week later - when you've already returned home to the US - it's pretty easy to claim it was stolen.

9. Research your travel destination

Planning a big trip, especially to an international destination you've never visited, involves a certain amount of vague apprehension. It's hard to know what to expect in a place when you don't have a frame of reference.While reading travel guides and local blogs can't guarantee your safety in every possible situation, doing extensive research is a great way to set expectations and create a mental picture of your destination, however incomplete it may be.

Two research strategies are particularly fruitful. First, before starting your trip, map out your routes to and from the sights you want to see and your hotel or hostel, and point out potential trouble spots such as poorly lit back roads. Second, rely on impartial sources, such as up-to-date travel guides from reputable publishers, to assess the safety of any given area. Local tourism authorities and even local governments have been known to cover up potential hazards and downplay the poverty of the harsh neighborhoods.

Last word

When I was a little bit younger, I was fortunate enough to live and study in London for a few months. I made a couple of trips to continental Europe while stationed in England and that's how I ended up on this metro platform in Barcelona. Fortunately, the closest thing to me was the near miss with the pickpocket when, at some point on this trip, I felt that my personal or financial security was threatened. And I've done many things - and taken many risks - that I would think about twice if I had the chance to relive that experience.

In other words, I was lucky, as were the dozen of my fellow travelers who played quickly and easily abroad. No matter what money safe tips you choose on your next big trip, make sure you have something other than luck by your side.

How do you secure your money while traveling?