Shredding The Evidence

While traveling you need to protect your identity, think twice before you throw away anything with personal information on it.  Thieves love to look in the trash where they can find a gold mine of confidential information.

As I travel, I keep a folder of pages I need to destroy.  When I have an empty water bottle I stuff pages into the bottle (don’t over pack).  Fill the bottle at the hotel with water and let sit overnight.  Next morning, empty a little water and shake vigorously and you will watch the pages turn to pulp.

Help me please!

No help from me. It’s sad but traveling alone can be dangerous as you are an easy mark. Thieves that prey on travelers now travel in packs and rarely alone.

One person will play a victim by falling, dropping things or anything else to distract you. Once you are not minding your valuables – they will be gone in a flash!

Distraction is the name of the game

Here are some real life stories that have happened to people I know or I have seen in play on others. To date, I have been very lucky and have avoided any scams.

  • On a local train two people traveling together and are standing as the train is near full. One has his computer bag at his feet and they are talking. The train is in the station and people are coming and going, someone drops a handful of coins and both people look to see what happened. A second person grabs the computer bag just as the doors are closing.
  • A friend is checking in at a hotel after a long overseas flight. He has his computer bag rested atop his luggage and continues with the hotel registration. While signing the registration someone walks by, lifts the bag and is gone. No one saw anything.
  • Airport arrivals in foreign countries can be a zoo. You are disoriented, tired and not sure where to go. You my friend are the perfect mark. Here a friendly person offers assistance. They have maps and all sorts of wonderful information. This friendly person is providing very useful and truthful information. He then skillfully turns slightly to point on the map to a location. A second person walks away with the luggage. The helpful person then points and says I think your luggage has been stolen, the person turns and then the friendly person disappears.
  • In third world countries, groups of children will swoop in and surround you. With so many playful children, you are distracted and pay no attention to those who are bumping up against you. And those small hands that are in your pockets picking anything they can. Best defense: immediately place your hands on your valuables, hold tight and secure your pant pocket with valuables while at the same time twisting and getting yourself out of there.
  • If you change money on the street – you are going to get ripped off. Most people are lured to these street thieves because they claim higher exchanges then the banks. Greed kicks in.  These people are masters of luring you in with great rates, but they will short count your money (right in front of you) or give you fake bills.
  • While in Manila I saw a scooter drive by and pull a purse from a foreigner, she was dragged to the ground and he was long gone. It happened so fast I was amazed.

Bottom line – paranoia is thing good when traveling!


If you are an unfortunate victim of a theft or crime, make sure you get a police report. This will be extremely helpful in replacing your lost documents and helping should identity theft occur.

You may be surprised but police reports are not an instantaneous thing. They may take a few days to produce.

Henna ‘Temporary’ Tattoo

These fun temporary tattoos are common in some cultures.  They have gained popularity at tourist attractions around the world.

While these are temporary and are supposed to come off, great care should be used.  First, the ink can stain clothing and sheets – if you are a hotel, you could wind up purchasing the bed sheets.

On very rare occasions you could have an allergic reaction.  Normally the dye is 100% safe, however, sometimes other chemicals are added to make the ink darker, last longer or stay fresh longer.  One such additive is p-phenylenediamin, also known as PPD.  It is not FDA approved for direct contact to skin.

If you are going to get a Henna, make sure it’s a natural henna without any additives and be careful with the bed sheets.

The Tour “Guide”

When visiting historical area you are approached by a local “expert” who is in school, retired professor and so on who starts telling you about the area.  Soon, they are like a Pitt Bull and will not let you go until you pay a “guide fee”.

I have talked with so many people over the years that have had bad experiences from Tuk Tuk drivers in Thailand to camel rides in Cairo.

When in these areas be on defense – be polite but firm, no thank you and keep walking.  If you engage in even the slightest conversation, you have opened Pandora’s Box.  Just say no thank you and keep going.  Saying yes to any of these will in 99% of the time lead to trouble.