TRAVEL TIPS FOR THOSE VISITING
THE U.S. FROM ABROAD
Airports: When passing thru the security area make sure you keep an eye on your belongings. Cons may distract the security officer while an
accomplice is at the end of the scanner removing your bag(s). Cons may appear to be a couple of innocent travelers when in fact they are simply attempting to blend in and not draw attention to themselves.
A Con may simply walk up to your laptop computer or other bag and walk off with it, without your knowledge. While you are busy talking with
friends or family your guard is down and the last thing you are suspecting is someone
to steal from you. A thief will not be wearing a sign and you need to be alert and hold on to your valuables.
A Con may bump into you and it may appear to be an innocent mistake. The problem is his partner, male or female, may have just removed your wallet in the process. A Con may appear to be in need of medical attention and while you are acting as a good samaritan, a thief is removing your wallet from your purse.
A good rule of thumb is not to talk with strangers, and if you need assistance speak with a airline representative or a uniform police
or security officer.
Taxis: Taxi fares are fixed and you should have the driver quote the approximate fare before you depart. You should ask the concierge desk at your hotel what it
would cost to get to a particular destination. Another important thing to remember when riding a
cab is to make sure you have the exact change for the fare, since it is very common to find that your driver doesn't have enough money on hand to make change.
Also make sure you enter a legitimate taxi and not a one-man-operation, as you could be in for a bad experience. A one-man operation that does not work for a major
taxi company may charge a very high rate for your ride and may take you to a neighborhood for other reasons then you suspect. Such a cab driver may take you to a neighborhood in order to have a robbery staged. In other words, the
thief will enter the cab and commit a robbery and may also appear to steal the drivers money, when in fact he is in on the scam.
A major taxi company will have the license of the driver displayed for you to view and it won't take long in any major city in the U.S. for you to figure out which cab/taxi company is a major provider.
Also don't be fooled at the airport by someone purporting to be the only means to travel from the airport to your hotel. Check and see if you have a voucher for transportation to your hotel. Cons hang out at airports and try to steer you to their cars to charge you for transportation, when in fact the transportation bus is waiting for you outside at no charge providing you have a voucher.
Buses: Unless you are familiar with the area I suggest you don't take a bus ride. Spend the extra money and take a
cab or taxi. It is easy for a thief to either steal your wallet or demand your money with or without a gun when on a bus. The chances that a good samaritan is going to stand up and help you are slim and none. Major cities have uniform and plain clothes officers working on bus routes and trains, but they are few and far between.
If you insist on taking a bus make sure you are aware of the route and have the exact fare ready. The last thing you want to do is display a large sum of money in front of strangers. Not being able to speak the local language will sound the alarm that you are an easy target.
Cash and Credit Cards: Credit cards are very handy as most places accept them and you don't have to carry a lot of cash with you. Limit the number of credit cards you plan on taking with you and keep them in a safe place.
Make use of your hotel's safety deposit box. If possible wear a "fanny-pack" type purse around your waist to keep your cash, credit cards, and other small valuables.
Only take what you'll need for the day's outing.
If you are going to use an ATM device make sure the person behind you is not watching you and stealing your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Use an ATM in the lobby of a bank if at all possible as chances are a security officer is on duty.
No matter where you go a Con will be there waiting to take advantage of you if you allow them. Stay alert and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Gifts: Do not buy anything of any value from someone who approaches you on the street. Someone may either tell you how they are out of a job and need money to buy groceries and want to sell you their expensive watch or they just came across this stolen (hot) piece of jewelry and need fast cash. In either of these cases the Con is simply attempting to sell you a piece of worthless jewelry. Any Con can get a worthless watch stamped with a 14k or other similar mark to make the piece look expensive.
The truth is the jewelry is know as "fools gold" as only as fool would buy it.
Rent-A-Cars: If you plan on driving a rent-a-car make sure you have a map and a clear understanding of where you are traveling. Make sure you have a cell phone available. In the U.S. use 911 to summons the police as most law enforcement jurisdictions have 911 service available. Some rent-a-cars have license plates that clearly alert Cons that you are operating a rent-a-car, which makes you a target.
If you get lost do not stop a stranger on the street for directions. Stop at a gas station or use the cell phone for assistance. If your car breaks down stay with the car and raise the hood.
If someone stops to offer assistance, ask them to call the police or rental car
office for you.
A couple appearing to be an innocent husband and wife may stop and offer assistance. While the husband is changing your plate tire, the wife is working on stealing your wallet or other valuables.
Cons may watch you enter a bank and puncture your tire knowing it will soon go flat. As you drive away from the bank the Con will follow until the tire is flat. Then its time for the Con to play Mr. Citizen of-the-month and offer to change your tire. Refuse any such offer of assistance from any stranger, unless the stranger is wearing a uniform and his car says POLICE on the side.
Do not leave the keys in the ignition when inside a self service gas station, paying for your gas. A thief will often hang out waiting for someone to either leave the engine running and leave the car unoccupied or leave the keys in the ignition with the engine off. Either way you will be sorry as you see your car drive off.
Do not leave any valuables in your car at any time. A thief can simply smash out a window and take whatever he wants. Day or night a thief is always at work and it doesn't matter where you are. Major city or quiet suburb it doesn't matter.
Hotels: Use any/all locks available and do not open the door unless you are positive of the caller and the nature of their call. Check with the front desk and verify who is at the door. Don't leave valuables out in the open when not in the room. Unfortunately some maids are capable of stealing and there is no way to prove they committed the theft. You may suspect him or her, but that is not going to get your valuables back.
Limit the amount of jewelry you take along and use a safe provided by the front desk.
Check before hand and inquire if the hotel has security provided 24 hours/7 days a week or on a limited basis. Often times off-duty police officers work at hotels
and provide security. It will give you piece of mind to know if in fact the hotel has security. Don't assume they have it, check first.
Carry Out Food: If you plan on ordering carry out food from outside the hotel and have it delivered, make sure you do not allow the delivery person to come to your room. Arrange for the delivery person to check in at the front desk and meet the delivery person to make the transaction. No need to have another stranger involved in the process of your safe travel.
Click on the Globe for tips when traveling outside of the U.S.
WHERE TO CALL
Airline complaints: Transportation Department, 202-366-2220, or at www.dot.gov
Travel complaints: American Society of Travel Agents, 703-739-8739; or at www.astanet.com
State Department advisories: 202-647-5225, or at travel.state.gov/index.html
International health info: Center for Disease Control, 888-232-3299 (material is faxed to you), or at
Passports: In Chicago, 312-341-6020, or at www.travel.state.gov
SafetyCops say Be Alert-Be Safe-Be Smart