Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: What should I do if I'm pick-pocketed abroad?

Mitch Marsden
by Mitch Marsden , NAPFA

Traveling and living abroad are very exciting things. Yet tourists and foreigners are often the targets and eventual victims of pick-pocketing, which can be very stressful and frightening. 

The first thing to do is take a deep breath  everything is going to be okay and you can sort it all out.

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If credit or debit cards have been stolen, call your card companies and banks to get them canceled. They will then issue new cards, but it will take some time to receive the new cards, even if just due to normal postal service processing.

If possible, report the theft to the local police. Check in with them periodically as they may find your personal belongings in the future and will likely hold them for a time. Most pickpocketers are most interested in your cash and will simply discard the rest.

If your passport has been stolen, find and visit the American Embassy and get an emergency passport replacement. You can get a permanent replacement after you get home. Make sure to take some new passport pictures for a quicker visit to get the emergency passport.

Continue to go about your travels as best you can, but be sure to watch your bank and card accounts to identify any fraudulent activity. Also, pay particularly special attention to your credit report for the next year to catch any identity theft. 

If someone is using your identity and getting into trouble with it, events will begin to show up on your credit report. You’ll then have to contact both the credit bureaus and any financial institutions where your identity has been fraudulently used to remove charges and clean your credit report.

Do your best to continue having a good trip. If you are cleaned out of money by the pickpocket, your family and friends may wire some to hold you over until your new credit/debit cards are available, or until you can return safely home.

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Next time you travel abroad, make sure to take extra precautions to avoid the same experience. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Here are a few thoughts on how to prevent it going forward:

  • Leave your passport at a safe place where you are staying
  • Carry little cash on hand
  • Leave a backup credit or debit card or two where you are staying for emergency needs
  • Walk or travel with your hand on your wallet or purse at all times in public areas. If you use backpacks, carry it on your front so that you can be aware of what is going on with it at all times.
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Mitch Marsden is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.