Keeping your passport protected should be a top priority no matter where you’re headed. A lost or stolen passport can not only lead to delays in travel, but more importantly, it can put you at risk for identity theft.
In fact, if a criminal were to obtain a US passport, they could use it to create a fake identity or even steal yours. According to our security team, “criminals can use a genuine US passport to smuggle illegal items in and out of various countries as well as try to obtain US citizenship. Additionally, once they have your passport information, they can begin accessing your financial and personal details.” It’s estimated that the average person spends 600 hours trying to recover their stolen identity—don’t let this happen to you! Check out our tips on how to protect your passport—and your identity —when you travel:
Keep it Concealed: Walking around with your passport makes you a target because it’s an easy way for others to identify that you are visiting from another country. Consider purchasing a travel wallet or a passport holder that will conceal the front cover. Travel wallets are also handy for storing other valuables like cash, credit cards and additional travel documents. Money belts are a great option to consider as they can be concealed under your clothing.
Know Your Rights: You are required to show your original passport in airports, when crossing the border into a new country, and at some hotels. If you are required to show your passport for any other reason, you can typically use a copy of your passport or reference the expiration date and passport number. Leaving your original passport locked in your hotel and carrying an alternative form of identification, such as an International Driving Permit, is typically the safest option.
Store it properly: Once arriving at your hotel, make sure you store your passport only in the safe. Never leave it in your room unattended. If there is no safe in your room and you are staying in a hotel that you trust, ask the front desk if they have a safe available to store personal belongings. Staying at a hostel or utilizing a private accommodations site? Purchase a secure, TSA approved travel lock and attach it to your suitcase. While this situation isn’t exactly ideal, this at least provides an extra layer of security when no safe is available.
Make Copies: Prior to leaving, make several copies of your passport. Lock one copy in your suitcase or backpack in the event your original is lost or stolen. Leave another with your employer (if on a work-sponsored trip), and leave yet another with a trusted friend, coworker or family member. Finally, consider scanning your passport and having a copy accessible by email, in a secure document storage site and/or on your smartphone.
Keep it in Sight: If you are asked by law enforcement to show your passport, keep it in your sight at all times. To avoid being detained (not exactly a situation any of us would want to be in!), research ahead of time and know what type of identification or travel documents are required for each country that you are visiting. If you are traveling with your passport, never place it on a store counter or a table where it can easily be grabbed from you or where you may accidentally leave it behind.
And don’t forget: in the event that your passport is lost or stolen, report it immediately. On Call clients can call us and we’ll assist you through the process, but everyone else should find the nearest US Embassy or Consulate and explain the incident in full detail. They will advise you on next steps and can help you file a police report if necessary. For more information on the steps you should take if your passport is lost or stolen, check out our full article here.