Stop, Thief! How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off on the Road

Have you ever been ripped off when you were on the road? It’s more common than you think. Even the friendliest destinations have their share of thieves and pickpockets, and in some Eastern, and Central and South American countries, stealing from the tourists is a way of making a living. In Quito, Ecuador for example, boys on the street have a racket where they approach tourists to give them a shoe shine, and while one has you occupied with another lifts your wallet. A common scam is stopping a tourist on the street to ask for change and when they get out their wallet, the wallet and the stranger are gone. I recently had a friend return from Spain who had her purse stolen by a couple who rove the subway; they snatched her purse as she was boarding a train and the doors closed on her.

However, with a little common sense and some simple precautions, you don’t have to be a victim when you are on vacation.

Security starts at home. Before you go, take some routine precautions. Make a list of any valuables you are taking with you, including serial numbers, in case you have to report theft. Also, be sure to photocopy important travel documents, such as tickets and the first page of your passport. Take along two spare passport photos, and store the copy of your passport and your extra pictures in your suitcase. If your passport is stolen, this copy and the photos will make it much easier to get a replacement passport. And avoid alerting the local burglars that you will be out of town by posting your trip on Facebook and Twitter.

Leave the bling at home: Don’t wear expensive jewelry when you travel. It only makes you a target for theft.

Seal your luggage: Keep your valuables with you but always make sure that you lock your checked baggage with a TSA approved lock. Get the kind of lock that lets you know that security opened your bag. Also keep your carry-ons closed and secure. When I get to my hotel, I always leave my room organized with all my things back in my luggage with it closed. Why leave things out for housekeeping to steal.

Keep stuff safe: Take a money belt or money pouch to put your credit cards, cash, and passport in. I prefer the pouch that hangs around your neck on a string. You drop it down inside your shirt. It is much easier to access it when you need it, and very hard for a pickpocket to steal it when it is under your clothes. If you carry a purse or backpack, keep it zipped and don’t carry it behind you, where someone has access to it, or leave it unattended. Carry a purse with a thick strap, and one that zips closed. Put the strap over your head and under your arm so a purse snatcher will decide to target someone else that has an easier purse to steal.

Keep an eye out: Be aware of your surroundings. Also, never leave a bag unattended, either at the airport or restaurant or anywhere else. Try to maintain physical contact with you bag, either with a strap or a foot, for added security.

Travel insurance benefits: Most travel insurance policies offer partial coverage for baggage and personal belongings. Most policies have coverage limits that will provide secondary coverage if a common carrier loses your bag. Check your homeowner’s policy because it will often provide you additional coverage for your personal effects if they are stolen on the road. Many policies sold on TripInsurance.com will cover the cost of replacing your travel documents if they are stolen. Our 24/7 travel support hotline can help you replace travel documents if you do lose them.

Your best defense against being victimized by theft while traveling is common sense. Be smart and secure, and don’t offer temptation to those around you who may be looking for an opportunity to rip you off.

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