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!