The Clever Travel Companion Updates
Why would someone steal my passport? September 14 2016, 0 Comments
It's widely acknowledged that passports are important documents and they're certainly needed if you ever want to travel, but how important are they once immigration is cleared? What happens if it gets lost? Why would somebody want to steal MY passport, what value could it possibly have to someone else? The answer to all of these is that passports are VERY important and HIGHLY VALUABLE, especially when in foreign nations.
Millions of passports are recorded lost or stolen across the world every year and most of them become useless due to the sophisticated security measures now in place. However, this isn't always the case. Passports are incredibly valuable to organized criminal gangs and with the right know-how they can make it very easy to "prove" who the correct passport holder is i.e. the THIEF. This can lead to gaining access to the original holder's bank account or using their identity to set up new accounts, through which illegal funds can be laundered. More dangerously however, the passport can be used to travel under a fake, "clean" identity. Needless to say, this is a vital tool for criminal gangs such as human traffickers and drug smugglers. To demonstrate how easy and how common this is, two Iranians were aboard the recent Malaysian Airlines flight MH-370 which mysteriously went missing between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing and were traveling on fake Italian and Austrian passports picked up in Thailand. They boarded in Malaysia, a country that takes bio-metric fingerprints at immigration control. In another high profile report, the hijackers of the 9/11 planes also used stolen passports and identities in perhaps the most infamous case of misusing I.D. documents used to commit crime. These days, the use of stolen passports has become an incredibly commonly used tool for terrorists targeting the west.
Earlier this year a 5 year investigation came to end with the capture of an infamous and renowned figure in the worlds black market: The Iranian passport forger nicknamed "the doctor" in Thailand. The massive scale of his criminal empire was revealed when a number of his international brokers and employees were detained and gave up details of the operation. Pristine "Triple A" fake passports were manufactured using incredibly detailed and high quality equipment to gain entry to all countries for a sum of between $2000-$3000. Customer's never met "the Doctor", only his brokers and the passports were shipped worldwide using FedEx and DHL to drug gangs, terrorists, human traffickers, international criminals and even refugees. He noted his most popular recent customers were people fleeing war torn Syria.
When traveling, keep in mind that your passport is an incredibly valuable document and worth the trouble of stealing from you. Take extra measures to keep it safe and secure at ALL TIMES
So what do you do if your passport is lost or stolen?
The good news is it's not the end of the world if your passport is lost or stolen and you're overseas, it's unlikely you'll be implied in the next big terrorist attack or engaged in serious international crime and you will be able to get home. Especially if you follow the correct steps as quickly as possible.
- Report your passport as being lost or stolen immediately, this will render it useless for international travel. U.S. Citizens can complete the report online here. For non-U.S Citizens, visit your government website for info on how to make the report.
- Contact your countries nearest Embassy, Consulate or High Commission and inform them of the situation. They will usually then issue an emergency passport for you to return home ONLY.
- When in your residence country, you can then apply for a new passport.
So how do you keep your passport safe?
Well naturally there are a lot of ways to keep your passport safe and out of harm but the obvious ones are the first places passport thieves will look. Can you be sure the hotel deposit box isn't compromised? Why would they have a deposit box and a contract clause stating they are not responsible for lost belongings if it was safe to leave valuables there? How much do you think the staff are paid in comparison to what a criminal gang will pay them for passports? Where is the risk if the lost property clause exists as it often does?
So keeping your passport on you at all times is the next option, after all in many countries this is a requirement and not being able to present it on request can result in a hefty fine and even jail time. Carrying a passport in a bag or fanny pack or similar presents to obvious problems, it's easier to get lost or left behind, it's clumsy and uncomfortable, it's difficult to dig around in and find what you need, it's also effectively a sign saying "tourist" and thus becomes a target for the exact people you're trying to protect yourself against.
Well good news! There's a solution: Clever Travel Companion's smart, anti-theft travel gear. Simply wearing one of these garments eliminates every single problem listed above and even better, ensures you and your passport will stay safe and out of harms way for the duration of your trip. Needless to say, this will free you up to do exactly what you started traveling for in the first place: Adventure!
Video: Woman with her children attempting to prevent a pickpocketing is violently assaulted May 11 2016, 0 Comments
We cannot stress enough that the safety of one's valuables does not only mean you get to keep your iPhone or you don't need to file an insurance claim, it means you avoid becoming a target and therefore, you remain safe.
Jan 2016: Stockholm, Sweden. A young mother with her children is violently assaulted and spat on whilst trying to prevent a pickpocket at Gamla Stan metro station, Central Stockholm.
The YouTube video description states that the man involved in the attack was an immigrant to Sweden and whilst that cannot be confirmed, nor should it be suggested that non-natives are pickpockets, it should be noted that the massive influx of refugees hitting Europe has resulted in heightened tensions in built up areas and opportunities for people up to no good. You only have to look at the New Years Attacks in Cologne, Germany where over 1000 women were attacked at the Central Station in a single night, for evidence of this.
The most alarming factor of today's climate is not the rise in pickpocket case's but the rise in pickpocket related violence. It seems thieves have become bolder and more brazen in their methods and they wont take failure lightly. This travelers account of an attempted theft in Pickpocket City: Barcelona a few years back, shows just how careless perpetrators have become of being outed in public places or of authorities.
The below infographic offers some advice on how to stay safe and where remain vigilant. Of course the best solution to avoid being targeted is to not have any valuables to target... Or at least look like you don't.
7 Africa Travel Safety Tips (That work for the rest of the world too!) April 25 2016, 1 Comment
A few years ago I spent 7 months backpacking Africa, by myself, using only public transportation. Out of all the places I've traveled in the world, Africa has become my favorite. It's not too dangerous or unsafe either. By following the backpacking tips below, I navigated the entire continent as a solo girl without any problems.
- Keep Your Money/Valuables Hidden on You. I was never robbed, thankfully, but even if I was, the thief wouldn't have gotten much since my valuables were all hidden inside my Clever Travel Companion blank tank top (You can read more about how this kept me safe + tips on which size to buy, etc on my backpacking Africa travel blog). I met a backpacker in Tanzania, however, whose taxi driver drove him out of town, stole his wallet, then left him on the side of the road. Luckily, the driver was nice enough to reach back into my friend's wallet and give him enough change for a bus ride back to town (a very thoughtful thief!). But if this would have happened to me, the driver would have only gotten about $20 because the rest of my money, credit cards, and passport were concealed in my tank top.
- Watch Out for Thieves at Hostels. Unfortunately, some of the worst thieves are other backpackers or the cleaners at your backpacker lodge. To prevent this from happening to you, I recommend packing a lock and using it to secure the lockers that most hostels provide in the rooms. During my trip when this wasn't an option, I put all my important essentials in my Clever Travel tank, and folded it up nicely with the rest of my clothes. If someone did go through my stuff, they wouldn't steal a plain old item like that, and they also wouldn't suspect it was hiding my passport and money.
- Don't lose your Sh*T! I think it's normal to want to go a little crazy on vacation, especially the first few days or weeks. But that's when the most trouble happens. For me it meant I spent exorbitant amounts of money in the beginning when I was in South Africa and then had to do some serious damage control on my budget for the rest of the trip. I saw a lot of good people though doing drugs, breaking country laws knowingly, or hanging out at shady bars in shady areas which are all things they admitted to never doing at home.Then they got mad when they were arrested for smoking weed or held up after drinking in a ghetto. Granted, as a traveler you're not going to know all the laws and most places in Africa do look a little questionable, but my advice is to keep yourself together and make sure you're making smart choices even in the beginning.
- Ask Locals for Advice. The best way I stayed safe while backpacking Africa was by asking locals safety advice then following it. For example, an American expat in Rwanda told me I could walk down a dark alley in Kigali at 2am with all my valuables out in the open, and nothing bad would happen. And although I didn't quite test it out, I did feel very safe. But in Nairobi, a local told me that as soon as it gets dark, I needed to quit walking and take a taxi even if I was only going a few blocks away. So that's what I did, and what I credit to a fun (and safe) experience in the town whose bad reputation earned it the name “Nairobbery.”
- Use Common Sense. Looking back, most my travel mistakes happened because I just didn't use common sense. The same was true for other travelers. Like when my backpacking friend, Oron, got malaria because he forgot to take his anti-malaria medicine for three weeks. Or when I recently heard of a traveler getting gored by a rhino because he got too close to it during a photo-op. Usually the unfortunate happens in travel because we just quit thinking.
- Leave the Situation-Fast! No matter, how careful you are, you can still easily wind up in a bad situation accidentally. My advice-run! That's what I did when I ended up in a really sketchy hostel in Durban, South Africa that looked more like a crack den. I found some Canadian backpackers who felt the same as me, and we shared a taxi and got out of there quick! I met some British girls who told me in Malawi that they went out clubbing with a local guy, but started to feel uncomfortable with how he was acting and where he was taking them. They nicely came up with an excuse and left. Even if everything seems fine, but you just have a bad feeling, I'd listen to it because it's literally better to be safe than sorry.
- Don't Tempt a Thief. While no situation justifies robbing or harming someone, there's no reason to make it easy. I always cringed when I saw someone walking around with a money belt. In my opinion, that just screams, “Rob me!” Their cash could be just as easily reached, however, in the pocket of a Clever Travel Companion pair of underwear, only with the added advantage of being secure. Same thing goes for a Chinese backpacker I met who was walking around Mozambique with her computer in a laptop case. I felt really bad when someone stole it from her when she was walking back from an internet cafe, but at the same time, locals never looked twice at me when I was carrying my computer because I was storing it in my dusty backpack.
I hope you see that backpacking Africa can be easily (and safely) traveled. Because even though I had visited over 20 countries before my trip—including European, Asian, and Latino, I found African countries to be the best for so many reasons!
Check out my blog Backpacking Africa for Beginners www.backpackingafricaforbeginners.com for more ideas on which countries to visit and how to do it, plus get a free 15% off coupon to Clever Travel Companion by downloading the complete edition of my free African travel E-book and check out this blog to see what other neat stuff Clever Travel gear can do!
About the Author: Val Bowden backpacked from Cape Town to Cairo, going through 13 African countries, all by herself. After her trip, she moved back to the continent and has been living in Addis Ababa ever since. You can download her E-book, Backpacking Africa for Beginners http://backpackingafricaforbeginners.com/book/or her guides on Ethiopia, Kilimanjaro, & scoring cheap flights for free (although any contribution goes towards a social impact business she's starting in Ethiopia).
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