How to Keep Your Passport Safe – Tips for Travel
Your passport is your key to proving citizenship and is the document that the US and other countries use to recognize you and to let you enter the country and is a critical document that needs to be protected. Anyone traveling abroad, especially for the first time, should take a few minutes to read up on important passport security tips for traveling abroad. Keep your passport safe at all times, around the clock while you’re out of the country.
Equally important is being aware of passport scams that you may encounter. Your passport is your key to traveling the world, as well as getting back home. It’s also a hot commodity on the black market so being aware of the latest scams to steal your passport is highly important too.
Most U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to travel overseas and reenter the United States. A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify U.S. passports.
Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver’s license, but all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States.
A stolen passport can cause a lot of problems for you when it’s time to come home. Not only will you not be allowed to travel, but you could also lose your non-refundable airline ticket costs and be facing additional unexpected travel expenses while you try to get it replaced. Also, you could return home to find that your identity has been effectively stolen, and you’ve got a mounting debt problem to manage.
Here are a few tips on protecting your passport, avoiding passport scams and what steps you should take before you leave home in case your passport is stolen.
Why Thieves Want Your Stolen Passport – and How Thieves Can Alter it
Do You Know When Your Passport Expires?
Do not leave it to the last minute to check when your passport expires. Many countries require a passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry to the country. Therefore, if you are planning to travel and your passport is due to expire in less than a year, you should strongly consider renewing your passport before departure. You should also make sure you have at least one clear visa page in your passport for immigration stamps.
There are few simple but necessary passport security steps that you can take to reduce significantly the risk of losing your passport. These tips are also useful if you happen to lose your passport or if it gets stolen.
Backing Up Your Passport Before You Leave Home
Scanning all the pages of your passport (especially the personal details page) can help speed up the replacement process if the original passport is lost or stolen. Know that sometimes, no matter what you do, things happen, and sometimes at the worst time possible – which might be when your passport disappears. Losing a passport or having one stolen is terrible and inconvenient, but there are a few things you can do before you leave home to expedite the passport replacement process. In this case, the objective is to quickly and easily prove your identity so you can obtain a new passport at the local embassy. Once you scan your passport, place it into your Dropbox or Google Docs account so you will have world-wide access if needed. Additionally, be sure to include key long-term visas in case you wish to re-apply or replace one.
Does Someone at Home Have a Copy of Your Passport in an Emergency?
Although having a scanned copy emailed to yourself or in your drop box account should be sufficient, leave a scanned copy of your passport with a trusted person (parents, friend, lawyer) who can be counted on to respond and act quickly to your call for help.
Place Emergency Contact Information Inside Your Passport
Put emergency contact information inside your passport in case someone has to access it in an emergency you are sick and unable to speak.
Tuck a Paper Photocopy of Your Passport in Your Travel Partner’s Luggage
This is for those cases when internet access isn’t so reliable when your passport disappears.
Cover Your Passport
Sometimes you may travel to a country where you may not want to let everyone know you are an American so keeping it covered may be a good idea. Not only does a cover keep your passport in good shape, but a blank passport cover from another country can be used to keep things low key and to keep people guessing. The best passport covers have RFID shielding too, learn more here.
Carry your Passport on Your Person if Possible
You should only carry your passport with you when you need it – otherwise, it should stay locked up. If you do need to take your passport with you, keep in mind that it’s sometimes more valuable than having a wallet with several hundred dollars inside. If you’re going to take your passport with you, always keep it in a location that is hard to get to. If you carry it in your purse or travel bag, keep it zipped up in an internal pocket within your bag. And just don’t carry it loosely in your bag where an unknowing hand can gain quick access to it – keep it deep down in the bottom of your bag, or in an internal zippered compartment. Never keep your passport in your back pocket – as that pocket’s called the “sucker pocket” for a reason. The best thing to do with your passport is to carry it in a pouch that is hidden under your clothes.
Give strong considerations to carrying it in a hidden belt, or a special travel purse or travel bag that has anti-pickpocket zippers, as well as other security features that will help protect your passport from theft.
- Here is a listing of unique money belts and wallets.
- Here is a listing of unique security purses with special anti-theft zippers.
- Here is a listing of special travel bags and security day packs with anti-theft features.
If you don’t want to invest in special travel security products, and you are a woman and are going to carry your passport in a purse, put it in an inside pocket and zip the pocket. A shoulder bag that’s worn across the body is best to make it difficult for a pickpocket to steal. Keep the bag in front of you and keep the zippers and snaps closed up at all times.
One Adult, One Passport
Some people make the mistake of keeping all the passports together and held by one person. That action simply means losing more passports at once rather than keeping them all safe. Each person who’s old enough carries their own passport. Spread out the kids’ passports among the adults to minimize the impact of a single theft.
Never Put Your Passport in Your Luggage while in Transit
While this may seem strange, many travelers do this and have paid the price. Keep in mind that luggage gets stolen, and on occasion, is gone thru by dishonest airline workers, hotel employees, and others who may have access to your luggage when it’s out of your sight. If you don’t carry your passport on your person, you want to make sure its secured location. Here’s an example of a passport security mistake. You place your passport in your carry-on luggage and board a shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. Along the route, the bus stops at a destination before yours, someone gets off the bus and mistakenly (or by purpose) takes your bag. Since your luggage was in the rear of the shuttle van or bus, you did not see the mistake (or theft) and off goes your passport. Always keep your passport on you person, or in a secured bag next to you.
If you Leave Your Passport, Lock it Up
If you leave your passport behind, and you’re relatively confident in the safe in your room, you can use that, but be sure that others can’t get into the safe while you’re gone. Many of the hotel and cruise ship safes are just not that safe. Use a hotel room safe lock for extra security, learn more here about the Milockie.
If you can leave it with the hotel concierge or hostel and have them lock it in their safe behind the front desk. If you need to leave it in your hotel room, but it does not have an in-room safe, consider a locking travel safe such as these. If you don’t want to buy a portable travel safe, lock it inside your hard-sided luggage that you can lock to an immovable object in your room.
Be Wary of Those Who Want to Hold your Passport
This practice isn’t very common today, but in some places, foreign hotels will ask for your passport and keep it. In some cases, they’re required to report the information to local authorities. If you’re uneasy with this practice – and you should be – ask the establishment to accept a copy of your passport instead of holding the document itself.
Fake Police Officer Passport Scam
Fake police officer scams have been around for awhile – and if you don’t pay attention, you could easily fall for the scam. The thieves work on your inability to recognize what a real police uniform looks like – and in reality, could you tell the difference between a fake and real police officers uniform if you were overseas? Also, keep in mind that the best crooks are the best actors and actresses. These thieves will do whatever it takes to make you believe they are the police. They will engage in a conversation and ask you for your passport – as if a real police officer may, depending on the investigation they were conducting. Sometimes this is a scam to steal a passport (not too common) however, most of the time, this scam is used as a way to look at your money to see if it is counterfeit. This is usually the scam that you need to be aware of. Do not hand over any cash for inspection, and surely do not hand over your wallet as some fake police scams do.
Keep in mind that the person who approaches you may, in fact, be a police officer, and with the heightened issue of terrorism in the world, this could be a real encounter, so make sure you know who you are talking to. If the police officer is in plain clothes, politely explain that you’re not sure they are real and ask them to call for a uniformed officer to come to the location. You can also consider asking them to walk with you into a nearby “legitimate” business and ask the storekeeper to help you confirm if the person is legitimate.
Check Regularly – In Private
Check regularly that you’re still carrying your passport where you think you are – especially if you are traveling internationally – but do this in private. If you make it obvious, a thief who’s watching will know just where to look for it. Check in the privacy of your room before you leave for the day and use opportunities like visiting bathroom stalls to verify its still where you think it is.