Criminals and Scam artists prey on travelers primarily because they make easier targets. Confused, lost, busy or simply relaxing on their trip, travelers can unknowingly expose themselves to risk and danger.
However, it is important to note crime is not that common in most areas and if you follow common sense and be prepared, your risk is further reduced. Travelers should remain alert and take steps to help ensure their safety. Never rely soley on others to provide your security and know as much as possible about the area you are traveling to, the local customs and particularly if there is a hightened risk of crime.
At the Safe Traveler, our experts have compiled some tips and guidelines that will help you ensure your safety when traveling domestically or internationally.
Petty thieves prey on travelers, especially on those who appear lost, confused, or alone in unfamiliar environments. These tips can help protect you from petty crime.
Know your surroundings
Thieves frequent transportation centers, historical sites and tourist attractions.
Common ploys used by thieves to distract you include jostling in a crowd, spilling something on you or asking you to hold an infant.
Do not become isolated in downtown areas of large cities, especially after dark.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Use traveler’s checks and change them only as you need currency. Countersign traveler’s checks in front of the person who will cash them, not beforehand.
Avoid carrying a purse or wallet. You will often be in crowded areas that are prime hunting grounds for pickpockets and purse-snatchers.
If you must carry a wallet, wrap it with a rubber band to make it hard to pull from your pocket, or use a chain to attach your wallet to a belt loop.
If you must carry a purse, keep it closed, place the strap over one shoulder (not around your neck), keep the purse to your front and keep your hand on it.
Do not use fanny or tummy packs. These advertise the location of your valuables.
Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill. If paying in cash, give the vendor an amount close to the purchase price.
Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not exchange money with unauthorized individuals. Keep copies of all exchange transactions and receipts.
Try to keep credit cards in sight during entire transactions and ensure they are returned to you before you sign the voucher. Write the amount of the transaction, in your own handwriting, in the signature block; this helps protect you against merchants who might alter the amount on your credit slip after you leave. Insist on a copy of the voucher and all carbons.
Leave jewelry, passports, tickets and personal papers in a secure place, such as a hotel safe.
Never leave valuables in open view in a parked car. Lock items in your trunk.
Report lost or stolen possessions to the local police immediately.
In most countries, violent crime targeted at foreigners does not occur frequently. Perpetrators’ targets are usually known to them and are not targets of opportunity. However, travelers are known to submit to criminal demands without the use of force. The following advice should help you if you are ever threatened by violent crime.
Understand the Criminal and Reduce Your Vulnerability
Criminals are usually desperate individuals with nothing to lose.
In order to raise their potential for success, violent criminals select the weakest targets.
Criminals prefer single targets.
Criminals look for targets who are out of place and who do not fit in, or those with apparent weaknesses. Favored targets include elderly, female, handicapped and intoxicated foreigners.
Maintain an appearance of purpose and awareness at all times. Walk as if you know exactly where you are headed even if you do not know; keep your eyes off the ground; look directly ahead, with an occasional glance side-to-side; periodically survey your surroundings in a 360-degree arc; always carry some cash in small and varied denominations to give to robbers (violence may occur if you have nothing to give on demand).
Most criminal violence occurs after dark in isolated areas such as side streets and alleys in urban areas, vacant lots, empty buildings and empty parks.
Many incidents of criminal violence occur in seedier areas of a city and oftentimes outside bars, nightclubs or in the immediate vicinity of ports, train and bus stations.
What to Do if You are Threatened
If confronted by an armed criminal, surrender your valuables incrementally and without hesitation.
Do not use offensive weapons such as mace or pepper spray. If you miss or the agent is ineffective, you have only antagonized the criminal.
Give the attacker only what he asks for. In many countries, the criminal may be satisfied with very little.
Without appearing to do so, study your attacker’s appearance, including his face, so that you can aid in identifying him to the police. If you have satisfied the criminal’s demand, back away slowly and leave the area as soon as possible.
Report the incident to your country’s diplomatic mission and to the local police.
Request a copy of the police report for insurance purposes.