The Clever Travel Companion Updates

Why would someone steal my passport? September 14 2016, 0 Comments

Stolen Passports

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

 

Stolen Passports

 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When in your residence country, you can then apply for a new passport.

 

Anti-theft clothing

 

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

Pickpocket attack

 

Pickpockets are no laughing matter. At The Clever Travel Companion we stress the issue of traveler safety every single day, we even built a company around it purely based on personal experiences. We understand it may become slightly boring reading about the same negative experiences over and over again, especially when the chances of it happening to you are very slim and you are probably prepared or don't put yourself in vulnerable positions... Well I'm sure the young mother in the below CCTV footage taken in Stockholm, Sweden in January 2016 probably thought the same, she also did not put herself in any danger of being pickpocketed. She simply did what any moral human being would do in such a situation and in doing so, was subjected to a violent assault. 
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.

Fortunately, the attacker was arrested the same afternoon and is now behind bars and the woman is unhurt, it's easy to see how this could have been much worse however.
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.

 

Top Pickpocketing Cities

 

It should be stressed that while pickpocketing is a serious matter and one you should always be aware of, it should not affect your travel plans. You are more likely to be targeted as a tourist, but only if you invite such behavior, here's a guide how NOT to. The likelihood however, is that you will have an unforgettable trip of a lifetime and come home safe and sound with all the possessions you left with (except what you ditched to make way for all the purchases!). You will certainly increase your chances of doing so with some Clever Travel Companion gear.

The Top 10 Most Dangerous Tourist Destinations in the World April 25 2016, 1 Comment

Top 10 most dangerous places in the world

The below 10 destinations are ranked as the worlds most dangerous tourist hot spots. You'll probably find yourself thinking "no way", "that can't be right" or even "wow, I've been there" and probably also "of course it is". Some of us may disagree with a few of the locations that have made the list and others might think certain cities have been excluded when they shouldn't have been its worth remembering that this is an independent ranking made up of the popular tourist regions that are most likely to see you run into trouble. Not necessarily fatal trouble, but some form of "ill fortune".

While this list should not be taken lightly, it should also be remembered that there are much more dangerous places on earth and this list is as much a guide of places to visit but also be vigilant. It certainly does not recommend labeling any of these incredible destinations OFF LIMITS.

Along with the reasons as to why these cities are considered dangerous, we'll also provide tips on how to give yourself the best possible chance of keeping safe. So, without further ado; prepare to be surprised! 

 Machu Pichu

10. Peru

When you think of Peru as a tourist destination, you think of the ancient civilizations, Macchu Pichu, the Andes mountains, the unique culture and the incredible landscape to be explored here. You probably don't immediately think that wandering off the tourist trail could be very detrimental to your safety. Terrorist groups and drug cartels have a heavy influence in Peru and you need to remember this at all times. Read up on some safety tips and some Do's and Do not's before jumping in and you will have the time of your life.  

 

Bangkok, Thailand

9. Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand has been South East Asia's tourist hub for years now and is truly one of the worlds most fascinating cities. In Bangkok you are guaranteed to have a memorable time although without watching your step, this could be for the wrong reasons. Thailand has problems with crime and is rife with corruption that has stunted its progression for as long as memory serves. Organized crime is prominent in Bangkok and authorities seem to do the opposite of prevention. In extreme cases, it is not uncommon for tourists to have fatal "accidents" that are followed by bungled, incomplete police investigations. That said, you're more likely to be targeted by a street scam, a police bribe or thief than violence. Keep your wits about you, your valuables safe and hidden and learn to recognize common scams

 

Rio de Jeniero

8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You may not be surprised that Rio makes the list, although to consider it "too dangerous" to travel to would be wrong. It's not and if you have the opportunity, you should pay a visit. Authorities have successfully and dramatically stepped up efforts to make the city safer since the 90's when it was classed as a hazard across the board. It is now considered safe enough to host the worlds largest sporting event in the Olympics later this year but you shouldn't take that as an opportunity to let your guard down. Plenty of people are robbed in Rio every year and tourists are continually targeted by thieves and con artists, so make the effort to keep yourself safe. On top of that, there are the favelas. The bottom line when it comes to these are AVOID THEM. By venturing into the favelas, you are opening yourself up to all manner of criminal activity.

 

Israel

 

7. Israel

Israel is again perhaps not such a surprising addition to the list considering is current political and foreign policies. It is however one of those destinations that will change a traveler's life. The history both recent and ancient is as rich and fascinating as you will find anywhere in the world. The reason it makes it on to the list is perhaps unfortunately born out of that history. It is a region that is at continuous odds with its close neighbors and improvised explosive devices, bomb attacks and rockets targeting locals just as much as tourists have become part of daily life in the Holy Land making it particularly volatile part of the world. It's not quite on par with places like Mogadishu or Kabul in terms of violence, but it does see a high level of tourist activity and for that reason, its inclusion in this list is warranted.

 

Bogota, Columbia

6. Bogotá, Columbia

Granted, the capital of Columbia has become a much safer destination since the days of Pablo Escobar and the rule of the cartels. Efforts to increase safety and draw higher levels of tourism have been somewhat successful, the police provide a much higher level of leadership and the city and country is certainly a destination we would encourage to add to your bucket list. Despite this, the narcotics trade is still prevalent in rural areas and traveling outside of tourist areas is not advised. The cartels have an entrenched influence and this can occasionally find its way into larger cities, tourists have been known to be targeted for kidnappings so make sure you keep a low profile.

 

Mumbai, India

 

5. Mumbai, India

Mumbai comes with the expected tourists threats faced in a developing country where extreme poverty and vast wealth meet everyday. Pick-pocketing is an art from in Mumbai and leaving your possessions unattended even for a second is not a wise move so get some Clever Travel Companion gear and be creative with it if you're planning on a trip, scammers also ply their trade on a far too often basis although if you do run into trouble, its unlikely to leave anything but your wallet hurt. Mumbai is considered one of the worlds wonders and checking it out is a must for anyone considering themselves a traveler, just keep your belongings close and you will have an awesome time.

 

Haiti and the Dominican Republic 

4. Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The Caribbean perhaps isn't a place you'd immediately think of when it comes to dangerous tourist destinations, probably more along the lines of paradise. Well, it certainly is paradise if you stay in the resort but we all know that isn't always the best spent vacation. Unfortunately, straying from the resort in Haiti or the Dominican Republic can land you in a heap of trouble; credit card fraud is rampant and bank machines aren't very reliable either. Kidnapping, muggings and even assault are known to happen and while numbers of deadly crimes are dropping, robberies and violence are not. Even resort grounds have a high level of reported criminality. Much of this can be blamed on the immense poverty affecting mainly the Haiti side of the island (which is by far the worst of the two countries) but common sense should also be practiced at all times in both regions, especially when it comes to flashing your wealth around, so keep it hidden and you'll be fine.

 

 Kingston, Jamaica

3. Kingston, Jamaica

Another Caribbean island makes an appearance, although this one perhaps not so surprisingly. Famous for Bob Marley and a chilled out vibe among other things, Jamaica offers fantastically beautiful scenery and a break from it all inside the luxury beach resorts. Outside of them however it's a different story; the drugs trade is rampant despite police and military efforts (sometimes violent) to curb it and robbery and assault targeting tourists is commonplace. Whilst some cities like Spanish Town and Montego are slightly safer than Kingston, Jamaica is a place one should exercise the highest level of caution

 

Cape Town

 

2. Cape Town, South Africa

Perhaps another unsurprising entry however Cape Town and Africa in general should certainly not be written off. For some experienced travelers Africa is the only true land of self discovery and the final destination for all those who want to understand the planet. That said, it's not a place for the meek or unprepared. Cape Town is a wonderful example of Africa. It's difficult history and recent political developments have lead to a level of instability that makes the city a dangerous place for locals and tourists. Anyone considering a trip to Cape Town or Africa in general (and you should be) needs to check out Backpacking Africa for Beginners its full of tips and videos from a solo female traveler and the best advice on traveling Africa. This fantastic blog article also outlines how to stay safe in Africa from someone who lives it everyday.

 

Acapulco

1. Acapulco, Mexico

Mexico was sure to make the list at some stage right? Although these days it's hard to judge whether Acapulco or many Mexican cities for that matter can still be considered tourist destinations. Beautiful beaches, a perfect climate and cuisine that's hard to beat doesn't outweigh being named the 3rd most violent city in the world. It used to be one of Mexico's most prosperous cities and is still one of the countries most popular tourist hubs but the high levels of crime mean that tourists and locals are under constant threat of danger. The narcotics industry naturally plays a huge role in the city's crime but the tourist population also plays a big role in the narcotics trade. People do still travel to Acapulco and enjoy themselves, leaving with positive memories - so not all is bad! Take care of yourself, don't make yourself and obvious target and you're likely to get on fine.

 

 

So that concludes our run down of the 10 most dangerous tourist destinations in the world. I'm sure some would come as a surprise and others not so much and while the theme of most of our newsletters is travel safety, we certainly don't want to deter anyone from the trip of a lifetime. The above destinations may be considered more dangerous for tourists than say London, Florida or Sydney but some may say they're also more adventurous. Everywhere has its ugly side and you're only likely to meet it if you're behaving ugly. Practice travel safety and you will remain safe forever more.

Check out our 7 Africa Safety Travel Tips that work for the rest of the world too!

If you have or if you're interested in Clever Travel Companion Gear you should check out our latest Hacker's Guide! It's got some great new uses for the gear.