Helpful Steps to Take If You’ve Been Victimized Abroad
Follow these steps and it will lessen the hurt
You’re having the time of your life on your semester abroad or spring break excursion in a country across the globe when suddenly all the fun is shattered. You’ve become a victim of theft. Maybe you were standing on a crowded subway platform only to realize your wallet had been taken or riding on a motorbike as your phone was snatched right out of your hand. It’s a scary scenario to imagine, but it does happen. This guide will provide you with actionable steps you can take immediately following a theft to make it harder for thieves to steal your identity and provide you with additional ways to protect yourself.
Find a Safe Spot to Breathe
Being victimized while traveling abroad can make your head spin. One minute you’re taking in the sights and sounds of another country, and the next, you’ve lost vital documents, communication devices, and currency. The best step to take after you’ve been targeted is to find a safe place to calm down and collect your thoughts. This might mean a well-lit restaurant or café or a campus classroom. Get somewhere you’re able to regroup and can’t be taken advantage of in your vulnerable state by another potential criminal.
Assess the Situation
Once you’ve had a moment to settle your feelings, it’s time to take a look at what needs to happen next. Depending on the crime and the severity of it, you may need to contact authorities, make a police report, or otherwise ask for help.
After you determine what kind of immediate assistance you need, you’ll want to make sure you make a detailed list of everything that was taken. If it was a quick pickpocket incident, this might be easier than if someone burglarized your rental. Either way, include things like:
- credit cards
- cell phones
Also include any other travel documents, personal effects, or valuables in this list. This will help your panicked mind start to piece together the damage that’s been done, and you can then present this list to the police as well as your insurance provider when needed. This list can also serve as a reminder of any login information or passwords that may need to be quickly changed to avoid further theft.
Cancel Stolen Credit Cards
This next step is a critical one. No other agency, including the U.S. Embassy, can replace credit cards — it must be done through whatever bank issued your cards. So, if your wallet was stolen or your credit cards have been compromised in any way, you should immediately report it to your credit card provider so they can cancel them and reissue you a new card as soon as possible. If you don’t currently have a credit card or are looking for one with great added protection, consider a USAA credit card. Some of the features this travel-friendly card comes with are expert support to help guide you if your identity is stolen, travel accident and baggage delay insurance, and zero liability for any unauthorized purchases — like those made by criminals.
Contact the Nearest U.S. Embassy
One of the most frightening things about being victimized overseas is the realization that you’re a long way from home, and the country you’re in may not handle the investigation the way you expect. So to make sure you get the assistance you need, contact a consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy to help. While these officers may not be able to investigate the crime itself, they can assist you by:
- Replacing a lost or stolen passport
- Contacting family, friends, or employers
- Provide information to facilitate access to appropriate medical care
- Address emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime
- Provide a list of local lawyers who speak English
Make a Proactive Plan the Next Time You Travel
Once you’ve gotten a handle on what a happened, try to use it as the ultimate learning experience for “what not to do” on your next trip. It’s true, tourists are victimized abroad, but nearly 60 million Americans travel to another country each year, and of that number, only a small percentage experience theft. So, instead of letting it keep you from traveling again, put a plan in place for travel emergencies. Look into credit cards with added security, travel insurance, make photocopies of all your important documents, and ensure you carry a list of emergency contact numbers on your person, not just in your cell phone. Taking these steps can help set you up for success when traveling, no matter what happens on your next adventure.