Savvy thieves have learned to use social networking websites to gain access to your valuable information. Experian ProtectMyID commissioned a study in 2011 that found one-fifth of respondents posted their travel plans on social networking sites. When data thieves get this information, all they need to do is look up a traveler's home address online and steal any mail containing information that can be used to commit ID theft.
Identity-theft can easily occur “the old-fashioned way” too. According to the State Department, the most common crime encountered when traveling overseas is pickpocketing. Practitioners congregate wherever there are crowds or bottlenecks: on escalators, subway trains, at turnstiles, or at the doors of packed buses or subway cars as people get on and off. While traveling, make an effort to remain alert for pickpockets or thieves.
You are most susceptible in crowded sites where tourists are focused on something else. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together. Street performers will work in concert with thieves to hold your attention while pickpockets rob you. Be careful about people who approach you. In public places such as airports, train stations, bus stations and markets, you should exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against pickpockets. Guard your valuables (especially purses and bags) while visiting busy cafés and restaurants. Do not leave valuables unattended in vehicles, and make sure car doors are locked at all times. Your money, credit cards and forms of ID should be in a secure place, such as in a money belt worn close to your body.
Consider carrying a “dummy” wallet, filled with loose change and a few small bills. Several informative websites suggest saving the fake cards that come with credit card solicitations in the mail and put those in the dummy wallet. If held up, you can surrender the dummy, and the thief won't realize he's been fooled until after the two of you have parted ways.
There are other “common sense” pre–cautions that you should firmly follow. For instance, never count money or wave cash around in public. Count your money behind a closed door such as in your hotel room or a rest room, not at the café or on the street. Never let your credit card out of your sight, and never use your credit card on a public computer.
If you do want to carry a bag, carry only enough cash in a fanny pack or over-the-shoulder bag to cover expenses for one day, and be sure the bag zips. Wear a shoulder bag over both the head and shoulder and in the front, not at the side. Never let your bags out of your sight. Always keep a leg or arm tucked through the daypack. Don't hang your backpack over a chair at the café. Use small combination travel locks on your bags. Once through airport security the bags should remain locked, especially while riding on trains and buses. Even a small daypack should be kept locked.
Our personal conduct on the road can expose us to additional danger. The State Department warns that especially late at night near bars and night clubs, foreigners have been subjected to scams, or have become involved in altercations (some violent) with drunks. One late night scam has involved attractive women enticing tourists in a reputable bar to visit a nearby bar where they are grossly overcharged. A number of travel websites specifically advise travelers to remain sober.
Try to pack your valuables in a piece of luggage that you will carry with you the entire time. Forgo anything flashy, brand-labeled or attention-drawing. Wear modest jewelry, if any, and do not advertise any expensive shopping trips. Pack light so you aren't bogged down with having to carry a bunch of items. Inquire if the hotel has in-room safes to store valuables during your stay. If that isn't available, ask about a hotel safe or guest lock box. Hopefully the hotel safe allows you to set a new combination. Longer combinations offer better protections. Never use a safe that requires a key provided by the hotel, as there may be untold copies circulating among staff and former guests. Before your trip, document your valuables. Take pictures of your camera, iPod, jewelry and other valuables. Note serial numbers and other information for possible insurance claims.
Theft is the most common crime committed in hotels. Try to get a room that isn't near a stairway or elevator and is not on the ground floor as this reduces foot traffic and the risk of strangers prowling around. If the clerk announces your room number for anyone else to hear, ask to be reassigned.