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4 Passport-Stealing Scams to Watch Out For

Thieves are always coming up with clever ways to get your passport, credit cards, cash and other valuables. Taking preventive measures to guard yourself from these threats can mean the difference between becoming another statistic or not.

Losing your passport is never easy, but check what to do if you lose your passport to reduce the time it takes to get things back to normal.

Impersonating an Authority Figure

The Scam: When you’re traveling in an unfamiliar country you may be approached by someone that claims to be an authority figure, perhaps a police officer.

Prevention:  This one is tricky because you don’t want to be noncompliant with an actual police officer and make the situation worse. Always ask for identification, and if you’re approached on the street suggest that you continue the conversation at the nearest business. This is often enough to get them to stop the scam and move on if they are not legit.

The Pocket Switcheroo

The Scam: An unsuspecting victim is sitting at a restaurant or cafe enjoying a meal or a coffee with their jacket placed on the back of the chair. The thief sits in the chair directly behind them and has their own coat in the same place so they’re basically touching each other. They’ll reach back and make it look like they’re going through their own jacket pocket, but in reality they’re stealing a passport from the target’s jacket.

Prevention: Always be aware which article of clothing your passport is in, and never leave it out of your direct sight or unattended. It’s best to leave your passport in a safe place, and just bring a photocopy, unless you know you’ll be crossing a border or will need it for some other reason.

Using a Passport as Collateral

The Scam: You want to rent something and the rental place asks you to leave your passport behind as collateral so they know you’ll bring back the item. Upon returning with the rented item your passport is no longer there, either they’ll claim they gave it to someone that looked like you, or they will simply say they lost it.

Prevention: There’s no reason to use your passport as collateral, it’s simply too valuable to hand it over to another person. Respectable rental shops will not require this, but they might require that you pay in cash up front.

Noticing a Stain On Your Clothes

The Scam: A scammer will approach you and tell you that you have something on your back or shoulder, perhaps a bird dropping. They’ll offer their assistance in helping to remove the stain (a stain they may have put there in the first place), rifling through your pockets while you’re distracted.

Prevention: Be leary of any physical contact from strangers and make sure to keep anyone you don’t know at arm’s length. This scam may vary, but the end result will be the same. Red flags should go up when anyone wants to help in a way that has them touching you or your things.

Keep your wits about you when you travel and your passport will stay nice and protected. Safe travels!

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