Stolen Passport Industry
After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database came into existence. The aim behind this was to help countries keep their borders safe and secure. And every year Interpol carries more than 800 million searches per year. About 60,000 of those 800 million searches yield hits against stolen or lost documents, according to Interpol. More than 40 million passports are listed as missing on the Interpol’s database. And figures from US Department of state reported more than 300,000 American passports lost or stolen. The stolen passport market is huge. Earlier people used it to fake their identity to seek a better life but now there is misuse.
It pays to stay aware of the most common ways thieves use when it comes to a stolen passport.
Lost or Stolen Passport? The tricks are listed below:
The set-down trick
Traveling is hectic especially overseas travel. You’ve to spend a lot of time at airport lounges or the coffee shops for your connecting flights etc. So it’s just human nature to make a mistake with your documents when traveling. It is a common practice among travelers to put your passport on the table at a restaurant as you pull out a chair, or rest it on top of your suitcase as you check the departure board at an airport. We all do it. As soon as you are distracted for a bit, you are vulnerable to theft.
Someone can just bump into you or the table, distract you and walk away with your passport. Or people can steal your passport when you’re checking into a hotel and have to show an ID proof. Be aware as when you’re searching for your debit/credit/travel card or the booking details, someone could come along and create a distraction—think to return a key, or asking a question—and slip away with your document. Always keep your passport in front of you, or within your eyesight and put it back in your bag once your passport is returned.
The spill trick
People don’t always accidentally spill a drink on you. It is all planned. Yes, it may sound like something out of a movie. A seemingly innocent passerby spilling anything on people while they pass them. This is to create a diversion, a distraction and is part of the elaborate plan. All this is based on the reports of such events, wherein a diversion is created and in order to help the person, the drink spillers or their associates steal the passport.If you ever face such an unfortunate situation, refuse attendance and instead, avoid contact with the offender by quickly walking away.
Your stolen passport can become else’s license to create trouble. Safeguard yourself by remembering these tricks.
The pocket trick
Most tourist places are full of exciting crowds. As a traveler, you carry your passport in your pocket sometimes. So it’s an obvious but very effective way for someone to pick your pocket and steal your passport. The thieves just need a crowded place like a bus or a train and a simple nudge. Regular travelers carry a backpack and all their important and essential documents are in there. Like them, carry a bag or a flat money belt which you should wear around your waist and hide it under your clothing.
Some passports hold more value than others like a US passport, so it is important not just to hide the document but hide your identity as well. If possible keep all of your valuables, including credit cards and emergency cash in your hotel unless required. Avoid carrying your passport and spending money together if you can, as taking out cash will alert potential thieves.
There are various reasons behind how your passport can become a stolen passport. People steal passports to sell it to others to forge a new fake identity. People use it to enter a country illegally to work or settle there. Terrorists steal or purchase stolen passports to carry out terrorist activities etc. At some places, policemen, plain-clothed or uniformed, will approach you to see your passports. They will claim they are looking for illegal immigrants etc. Most of the time, they are actual officials but it could be an elaborate ruse as well, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
How will you check whether they are real or not? Always keep a keen eye on what is happening around you. See if they are checking everyone else or is it just you? Do they have visible security badges and patches on their uniform, and officials are not asking for anything but photo ID. If they are singling you out, tell them that you will show your passport at the nearest police station or hotel lobby. Claim that you don’t understand what they’re saying and you need someone who speaks the native language.
Always keep an open eye because if you would not, someone else is also keeping an eye on you. They are waiting for a distraction. A little distraction here or there, your passport will move from ‘your’ to ‘stolen passport’. And God forbid, someone does steal your passport, report it immediately and visit your country’s consulate to get new documents.