Protect Your Valuables When Away From Home

This article was triggered due to a friend of mine who recently traveled overseas and one day had her purse stolen… Travel Security is extremely important. You may not realize how important certain everyday carry items are until they go missing…

Do this: empty your pockets, purse, wallet, and anything else that you carry around with you every day. What do you see? Now, how would it affect you if it were all to disappear? Imagine that someone stole your purse off your shoulder or your wallet out of your pocket while you were walking down the street? How would that affect you? Do you know what to do in that situation? Here are some tips to help prepare yourself before it happens, and to respond after it happens.

What To Do

When visiting a crowded space or traveling overseas, always carry your valuables in your front pocket or another hidden compartment on your body.

It is never a good idea to keep your identification, money, bank or credit cards in your back pocket or purse as these are prime targets for thieves. It is also not a good idea to transport these items in your luggage which could be lost or stolen, or leave it in a hotel room which is accessible by hotel staff.

Don’t completely trust the hotel room safe either, as the hotel staff along with any frequent guests will know how to open it. Besides, hotel room safes aren’t exactly known for being high quality.


One alternative to the hotel room safe is the hotel’s main safe… If you don’t want to carry an item with you, and know not to leave it in the hotel room, take it to the concierge desk and ask to have it kept in the hotel’s safe. Although the hotel’s safe is accessible to staff, staff access is very limited and security is (usually) taken vary seriously (they are trusted with items that are much more valuable, so they should be able to keep your stuff safe too).

Prepare in Advance

Before taking any trip it is a good idea to make a photocopy of your identification, passport, cards, and anything else that, if lost, would pose a major inconvenience, and keep it separate from the originals so that you will have the for reference. It wouldn’t hurt to leave one copy safe at home and take another copy with you. Write down the phone numbers for your bank, credit card companies, and the local embassy if you are traveling overseas, and keep these phone numbers in your luggage or a safe place. There’s nothing wrong with keeping these numbers in your cell phone, but you will also want to have a physical backup copy incase your cell phone is stolen as well. This way you won’t have to search around for the information while stressed from the incident.


Call the Cops

When you discover that these items are missing, report them immediately. The local police department will make a report which may be needed for proof later. In some instances the police may even be able to locate your lost items. However, if they don’t know it’s missing then your items could just end up in a ‘lost and found’ somewhere.

Report it to Bank and Credit Providers

Your bank and credit companies will shut down the missing cards so they cannot be used for purchases. They will then take care of any purchases that have already been made by the thief, and will order replacement cards for you. Depending on how long you will be on travel, your replacement cards may be able to be sent to your hotel or embassy to help you get back on your feet sooner.

Note: You might be able to multitask these first two… The authorities aren’t always quick to respond, or they might ask you to go to the station to fill out a report. In that case, don’t delay calling your bank as this will just give the thief more time to use your cards. Instead, call your banks while you are waiting for the police to arrive, or before you leave for the station. The hour or two that it could take you to fill out a report could allow the thief sufficient time to spend thousands of dollars with your cards. Fortunately, the United States now has consumer protections in place to help you recover from a situation like this, so try not to stress too much, read on for more information.

Protection for the Future

Also consider asking your bank or credit company about placing a fraud alert on your credit record to help protect you from anyone who might try to open a new account in your name (they should offer this service, but be ready to ask incase they don’t). A fraud alert will simply respond to any new account requests by notifying that credit company that there may be a problem and suggest that they take additional verification steps to be sure that the requester is really you. This will not impact your credit score at all and is free of charge.

Cell Phone

Think about your cell phone too. These days it is pretty easy for criminals to copy the contents of your cell phone without your knowledge; and this happens daily at airports and other popular areas.

Prepare Your Phone

Protect your expensive phone, and the massive amount of private information that is probably on it…

  • Purchase a cheap pay by the month “burner” phone to take with you.
  • Don’t upload your full contact list or connect it to your Apple / Google, etc. cloud or email account so that information doesn’t get uploaded to it automatically. Keep this as bare as possible.
  • Any information that you absolutely need to take with you should be manually saved to the phone so to prevent accidentally uploaded more than you need. You should also create a separate, temporary email address just for this phone.
  • Only give out this phone number and email address to the people who you really want to talk with while you are gone so that you limit the amount of your information stored on the phone and shared with criminals (and also get a little bit more peace and quiet than you would otherwise).

Work Phone

If you have a work cell phone and are taking it with you, be sure to check with your IT department regarding company policies before you leave. If there was an incident or you suspect an incident, be sure to check in with the help desk when you return. Do not take your work phone with you unless you absolutely have to. Instead, leave it locked up at home so that’s one less thing to worry about (I’m sure that your employer will agree). Give your supervisor your “burner” phone number instead incase you need to be reached for some reason. (Hopefully they will leave you alone so you can enjoy your trip.)

Criminals WILL copy your phone and review the information… So don’t keep your itinerary, passwords, or directions stored on it. Instead, keep this information in hard copy with your belongings. If using your phone GPS for directions, train or bus schedules etc., use it as you go. This will at least greatly reduce what they know about you and make you much more difficult for them to target further. The criminals will likely move on to the next person who is easier to track.

What if…

If you’re one of those people who said “I’m not going to get a phone just for travel. I’m taking my phone. Screw Pastor Dave!” and now your everyday phone is missing or compromised, do you know what to do??? Well, do you? I bet not. …I’ll give you a hint, it’s a REAL pain in the … to clean this up. (Don’t you wish that you would have listened to me?)

Cleaning up the Mess

First you need to come to peace with the fact that there’s nothing that you can do about the information that they already have… All the stored account information and passwords are available for their use. The emails, text messages, pictures, videos, etc. that they already have are now for their viewing pleasure (I hope there wasn’t anything private) and you can’t do anything about that, but if you act quickly you can take action to prevent them from continuing to download more from you.

Call Your Carrier

  1. Contact your cell service provider and report the incident. They can temporarily disable your service until you get a new phone (if it was stolen). If you wish, you can request a new phone number too, but you don’t really have to. Even if your phone wasn’t stolen, it would be a really good idea to get a new SIM card because if the thief copied your SIM data they can continue to track your phone (have you ever seen the Liam Neeson movie ‘Taken’?). Depending on your service provider, they might mail you a new SIM card at no charge, or your might get them to give you one if you sound sad enough. Otherwise, they only cost a few bucks, so don’t be cheap, just replace it and err on the side of caution. It’s better to protect yourself for a few bucks, than have to deal with a bigger problem later. The reason that I listed this first rather than after what I have as steps 2 and 3 is that this should be a quick and easy phone call, and the provider should be able to lock your phone so that nobody can access it. Now that won’t stop the smarter thieves, but if some kid has your phone this might be all that’s needed. Unfortunately you don’t know who has your phone; and if they copied your phone as I described above, this won’t protect your data, so keep reading.

Address the Most Important Accounts First

  1. Next, and this is where it starts to get fun…(not really). When it comes to your accounts, I suggest that you start with the couple biggest / most important first, then do all of the others (see step 4). So if you use Google or Apple or Microsoft or any other cloud accounts, find a computer that you can login to and change those passwords immediately. The reason why I listed these accounts first is because whether you know it or not, a lot of things are tied to these accounts making them very important for your privacy. Thankfully these providers work really hard to protect your account and your data, but all of that is for nothing when someone has your password. 2a is your main email address if you use a provider other than one listed above.

Don’t Forget Work Accounts

  1. Work accounts that you access from your phone. If you are able to check your work email or complete your timesheet from your phone, then get those passwords changed immediately. Also contact your employer’s help desk to report the incident as there is a possibility that the thief may have company information from these accounts, so they need to be notified. The reason that I listed your work accounts after your main account is (in my opinion) due to the importance of the account compared to the effectiveness of the security protecting it. Now I know that your employer will disagree, but let’s be realistic here… Your employer should have some pretty decent security protecting

Everything Else Needs to be Changed Too

  1. Did I say that step 2 was where the cleanup started to get fun? Well, the fun continues…(you are probably going to hate this, and most people will probably never finish, but it really, really, really needs to be done.) Make a list of all of your accounts (all accounts, everywhere). If you have a password manager such as Apple keychain, Google Password Manager (built-in to Chrome), or any others, it should be able to give you a list of the websites and passwords that it has stored. Export the list from your password manager to a spreadsheet to use as a checklist and a good starting point. Don’t forget about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. not only because they need to be changed, but also because many people use these accounts to login to other sites, so changing these passwords will protect others as well (do those first).

Changing your Passwords

Once you have your checklist made, just start at the top and go down the list changing every password. Be sure to use a different password for each account. …This is where a password manager comes in handy because it is unlikely that you will remember all of these later. You can save the new password in your current password manager, so long as you changed that account password first so that the thief doesn’t just get the new password too. Your password manager should also be able to suggest a complex (crazy looking) password which should keep anyone from being able to guess your password. Using the suggested password will probably be a lot easier than trying to figure out a new, unique password for every account that you have since it’s probably a pretty long list.

If you prefer, you can change the password for the accounts that you use most first, just be sure that you get all of them in whatever order it is that you choose. If you come across accounts that you no longer want to use, change the password, then take a moment to figure out how to get that account removed (contact the site if needed). There’s no benefit to having an account with your information in it that you are probably never going to use again.

Final Words

No matter how thorough you are, you probably won’t get everything… So be sure to keep an eye on your email accounts for a while for any notices of strange activity on an account that you haven’t logged into recently. All in all, you cannot protect yourself completely from the people who make a living from stealing and taking advantage of good people, but you can do your best to make their job as difficult as possible. Most likely they will give up and move on to someone easier rather than continuing with you. Unless for some reason they just really like you.


For more great information, check out these sites:

Let’s Talk About it

Ask your questions or tell your story in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you and would love to discuss more details.

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