Theft on the Road: Minimizing the Impact

It’s a terrible, terrible thing, but it happens. Cars are broken into, purses are nabbed, pockets are picked. If you’re at home, having your purse or wallet stolen can be bad enough. But it can be really, really hard to deal with on the road. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of theft, regardless of where you are. (Pictured: SentrySafe H2300 0.36 Cubic Foot Fire-Safe Waterproof Chest in Silver Gray, available from Amazon for $39.97.)

  • Only keep essential credit cards on hand. When my purse was stolen a year ago, it had seven cards in there. Ouch. Now I only keep my debit card and my miles card in my wallet at all times. I really just don’t have the need for the other cards, although YMMV. (The other cards are kept home in the safe.)
  • Make photocopies of all cards. I have copies of the front and back of each of my credit and debit cards in the safe at home. Also, in my suitcase pocket I leave a list of phone numbers for the cards I keep with me. This way if my wallet or purse is stolen on the road I have the most critical numbers on hand.
  • Make a copy of your drivers license and passport. These are also in my safe at home!
  • Leave valuables at home. Sometimes after a bunch of trips in a row, I get lazy and forget to clean out my purse. But seriously—if you truly have something irreplaceable, don’t bring it with you on a business trip.
  • Don’t keep your social security card in your wallet. Please, please, leave your social security card at home. If a thief has your drivers license and social security card it is much, much easier for them to steal your identity, which you definitely don’t want.  There is just no good reason to keep it on you!
  • Have a security code on your phone. Protect your account and your personal and professional data by having a code on your phone. Most people I know don’t, and they say it’s because it’s a hassle. Well, it takes me approximately half a second to enter my code into my phone before I use it, and I don’t have to worry about thieves running up charges or getting access to my company email.
  • Take receipts out of your wallet after every trip. Yet another hassle I had to deal with last year was doing a bunch of expense reports without receipts. Now, even though I still do the reports once a month, I file my receipts after every trip, just in case.
  • Give a house key to a friend. If you live alone, make sure a friend or family member has a key to your house in case your keys are stolen. It’s way easier to have a friend meet you at home than a locksmith!
  • Only take your computer when you need it. With computers so portable and small these days, sometimes it’s tempting to leave it in my purse and take it with me to dinner or errands. But honestly, it’s better to leave it at home or in the hotel room if it’s not necessary. Because the portability that makes it so easy to bring with me also makes it an easy target for a thief.
  • Don’t leave your room key in the envelope with your room number on it. We all know how important this is, for safety as well as security of our belongings. If you’re worried about forgetting your room number, save it in the notes on your phone, take a picture of your room number, or send yourself a quick email reminder.
  • Back up your computer. We all know we should be doing this on a regular basis, for a lot of reasons. Add possible theft to the list.
  • Don’t travel with checks. For Pete’s sake, leave the personal checks at home. When I called in about my debit card being stolen, the first thing Wells Fargo asked me was: “Were there checks in your wallet?” Because remember, checks have your actual bank account on them. (Of course, I never have checks, even when I need them, but that’s a different story…..)

Readers, what do you do to minimize a possible theft on the road?

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  1. I keep an email folder for most of the items you’re keeping in the safe at home. I’ve scanned them and emailed them to myself. That way, I can retrieve my passport copy, phone numbers and the like wherever I am if the originals I’m carrying are stolen.

    Thanks for your list and bringing up the subject.

  2. Regarding not keeping your social security number on you, the problem for senior citizens is that their Medicare card, which they are supposed to carry with them, has their social security number!

  3. Similar to what Colleen said I keep a private folder on Dropbox with scanned copies of all important documents and info about credit cards. In case of an emergency, you can retrive them by accessing your Dropbox folder in any computer and printing copies of the documents if needed. Regarding my computer, it never leaves my home and I always keep a HD on my fireproof safe with the latest backup (do it every 2 weeks).

  4. Make sure an honest person who finds your cell phone, laptop, Kindle, iPad, etc has a way to return it to you.

    Logins are a must, but they do prevent looking thru contacts for ICE or Home or MOM or whatever.

    I use three different services. One is TrackItBack, which sells stickers that have their contact info. I have stickers on my Kindle and my Bose Headsets.

    Second, I use FrontDoorSoftware Security on my laptop. When my laptop is started, the login screen displays their contact info with instructions to help with return (and a promised reward). If I contact them to report the laptop gone, I can also tell them to wipe the disk next time the laptop connects and “phones home”.

    Finally, I have a phone case from Gelaskin that has my contact info on it. (As a bonus and as a photographer, I also have a black-to-white gradient as the background so I always have a grey card with me.)

  5. I was staying at Westin Guadalajara in Mexico and they made an effort to highlight the fact that they dont put a room number on SPG Plat key envelope “due to security reasons”.

  6. Those are all good ideas. But, that safe is so small that a thief might just grab the whole thing and open it later.

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