As the thoughts of millions of British nationals begin to turn to holidays abroad this summer, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is launching a campaign to underline the value of the British passport and to help travellers to recognise and avoid potential threats from thieves.
Last year more than 20,000 British passports were reported lost or stolen, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that many British nationals fell foul of thieves and pickpockets. To make people more aware of the risk to their passports and other valuables, the FCO has teamed up with stealth crime expert and ‘Man of Steal’ James Freedman to create a series of short video clips to demonstrate the techniques used by thieves to pilfer passports, and to offer advice on how to avoid becoming a target.
James Duddridge, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, said:
“Holidays are a great time of enjoyment with friends and family, but if you do end up a victim of theft, or simply lose your passport, then your trip could be ruined. Criminals operate all over the world, so travellers need to keep their wits about them and take care of their passports or risk losing valuable holiday time and money applying for an emergency travel document. Passports are essential for smooth and safe travelling, so follow our top tips to avoid getting hustled for your passport. To avoid being a star of your own passport hustle, stay smart overseas.
James Freedman, stealth crime expert, said:
“Pickpockets and thieves constantly evolve their techniques and tactics. These videos show just a handful of ways that a pickpocket might attempt to steal from you, so remember some basic advice to stay safe. If you don’t need to take your passport with you, leave it in your hotel safe instead. Only carry what you need and keep valuables in a secure pocket. If you have a bag or case, never let it out of your sight. Be more alert in crowds and wary of anyone getting too close. Finally, try not to advertise the location of prized possessions by patting your pockets or bags. That's why you'll often find pickpockets near the "Beware Pickpockets" sign!"
Cases this year have included a student backpacking in Peru, who was distracted when a local man “accidentally” pushed him, giving a female accomplice the opportunity to grab his rucksack. In Rome, a holidaymaker’s attention was grabbed by a man knocking on the window of his railway carriage. At that moment, his partner in crime snatched his bag containing not only his passport but all of his valuable camera equipment.
Everybody should enjoy making the most of their time on holiday. However valuable holiday time and money can be lost if a passport is lost or stolen, as the victim may need to report the theft to the police, and spend time at the local Consulate or Embassy being issued with an emergency travel document. Consulates around the world are issuing large numbers of emergency travel documents, and assisting distressed British nationals who have been victims of crime each year.
The FCO's top tips for keeping your passport safe:
If you would like further information please contact 0207 781 2342 or firstname.lastname@example.org