There was a recent article in The New York Times weekend travel section that spoke directly to me. It was called “Safeguarding Your Valuables on Vacation” by Shivani Vora, and it quoted Matt Dumpert, a senior director at a security consulting company. Last December in Montevideo several locals approached me on the street and TOLD me to put my camera away. A few years before that, Ruth and I were mugged in the Madrid subway system because I had taken pictures in a festive, busy square above it with a different camera. Mr. Dumpert had his camera stolen on a trip to Brussels. I had a bag stolen in a Brussels train station.
Mr. Dumpert reminds all travelers that we let our guard drop a bit while on the road and are vulnerable to theft as a result. To avoid trouble, he advised us not to bring valuables. Kim Kardashian learned this lesson painfully in Paris last October. If you have something with you that is personally valuable, Mr. Dumpert recommends buying a travel insurance policy to cover lost personal property during travel. The article says in bold letters “Don’t Be Flashy”. You might get away with flashiness in London but probably not in Capetown. Mr. Dumpert reminds all that signs of perceived wealth make you a crime target.
I often wondered about this next one. Don’t use the in-room safes. Maintenance and housekeeping staff can open them with a master combination. If you have something with you that needs securing and are staying in a high-end property, it probably has a usable central safe. Ask.
I knew this one. In a neighborhood that looks a bit run-down or in an unfamiliar foreign country, walk with confidence down the middle of the street and avoid distractions. I wish I had remembered this in Madrid. Criminals are looking for victims who clearly don’t fit in and seem unaccustomed to their surroundings. If you need to check a travel guide, say, or use a cell phone, step into a busy, well-lit shop.
The last is the hardest to understand and implement. “Savvy criminals”, according to Mr. Dumpert, “monitor social media and even have the tools to pinpoint your exact geographic location.” Because we can’t hide any longer, skip social media while traveling. Even posting photos might get you into trouble.
Hope this helps.