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Travel advisory

"Travel advisory" Continued...

Obviously, if confronted by a thief the objective is to try to get him to take as little as possible and leave you alone. But if the thief is not satisfied with the spending money wad, give up the big bills and even the credit cards if forced to. Again, the cash is not worth getting hurt or killed for.

Leave all your club membership cards and other unnecessary wallet clutter at home. They will not do you much good overseas and could even get you into trouble. I know of a case in Mexico in which an individual was the victim of an express kidnapping while on vacation. He was the CEO of a company and had business cards in his wallet noting such. When the criminals examined the victim’s wallet, they unexpectedly found themselves with a big fish, and they then decided to hold him for a far larger ransom than just the contents of his ATM-linked checking account.

Now, not all thieves are in the Third World, and we have plenty of them in the United States. I would therefore encourage you to consider implementing many of these wallet suggestions in the United States, too—especially knowing what is in your wallet, minimizing what you carry, and not carrying Social Security cards and PIN numbers.

Other Items

Sunglasses: Instead of the expensive Ray-Ban, Oakley, or Maui Jim sunglasses, consider getting a cheap pair of sunglasses. You can get glasses that will protect your eyes from UV light for less than $20.

Jewelry: Chains, earrings, rings. Is there really any need for you to wear that thick gold chain or large dangling earrings? Both of these items (like sunglasses and cameras) are very tempting for snatch and grab criminals. I know a woman whose ear lobe was ripped open when a criminal on the back of a moped snatched a dangling gold earring from her ear.

Wedding rings: These are often good to have, especially for a woman looking to avoid any unwanted attention from the opposite sex. But if you have a large, expensive band with diamonds or other precious stones, or a band with a lot of sentimental value, you might want to seriously consider buying a plain band to wear instead. You should also leave your diamond engagement ring and other rings at home.

Cameras: Unless you are a professional photographer, you might want to consider whether you really need to carry that very expensive camera on your trip. If you do decide to take it with you, make sure you back up any important photos that may be on the memory card. You should also check to see if the theft or loss of the camera would be covered on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Purses: Like wallets, purses can be real treasure troves for thieves. Carefully review your purse to see what is in it and, like your wallet, weed out all the unnecessary items. Thieves will commonly slit a purse strap (like a camera strap) and take it or just try to grab it and run. I have also encountered many cases where purses and backpacks were slit open with a razor blade and their contents removed. I normally recommend that if women really think they need a purse they take a small purse that can be clutched tightly to the front of their body. Purses and backpacks are natural targets for thieves, and women should seriously consider placing their important things in their front pockets or placing them in an ankle or inside-the-shirt pouch. If you carry a purse or fanny pack, do not lay it on the floor in a restaurant or hang it on the back of your chair.

Travel documents: When you handle your passport think to yourself that you are handling a wad of $100 bills, because you are. On the black market, a stolen, genuine U.S. passport can fetch up to several thousand dollars. You should make a couple of photocopies of your passport. If you have a safe place to keep your real passport, do so and carry the copy on your person (if that is legal in the country you are to visit). The other copy should be kept with the trusted contact who has your credit card information so that you can refer to it in case your real passport and the copy you carry on you are lost.

Electronics: Laptops, tablets, iPods, and mobile phones can in many ways serve as de facto electronic wallets. Again, do you know what’s in yours? The old American Express commercial used to warn travelers, “Don’t leave home without it.” In today’s world, many travelers find it hard to leave home without at least a laptop, mobile phone, and tablet or e-reader. Some also tote iPods in which sensitive information has been stored.


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