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Tips to keep your passport safe on holiday

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is urging British holidaymakers to keep their passports safe while they are abroad this summer.

Last year more than 20,000 British passports were reported lost or stolen.

To make people more aware of the risk to their passports and other valuables, the FCO has teamed up with stealth crime expert and ‘Man of Steal’ James Freedman to create a series of short video clips to demonstrate the techniques used by thieves to pilfer passports, and to offer advice on how to avoid becoming a target.

While you’re busy enjoying your holiday, many pickpockets and thieves are on the look out for opportunities to take your passport or valuables, constantly evolving their techniques and tactics.

The FCO's top tips for keeping your passport safe:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and be wary of strangers who take an unusual amount of interest in you
  • A damaged passport cannot be used for travel, so value it and keep it safe
  • If you don’t need your passport, don’t take it with you; leave it in your hotel safe. If you do need to carry it, ensure its location is not visible
  • Make two photocopies of your passport – leave one with friends or family and take the second with you, or store an electronic copy securely. Where permitted, use your photocopy as alternative ID, for example when going out at night
  • For certain countries your passport must be valid for 6 months after the date you travel – check the entry requirements before you go
  • Ensure you fill in the emergency details / next of kin page before you go
  • Never let your bag or case out of your sight
  • Be alert in crowds and wary of anyone getting too close
  • Don’t pat your pockets or bags containing your valuable items – it advertises where your valuables are stored.

Pickpockets and thieves often work with an accomplice, who distracts the target, while the thief steals the valuables. Cases include:

  • A student backpacking in Peru, who was distracted when a local man “accidentally” pushed him, giving a female accomplice the opportunity to grab his rucksack
  • In Rome, a holidaymaker was distracted by a man knocking on the window of his railway carriage. At that moment, his partner in crime snatched the holidaymaker's bag containing not only his passport but all of his valuable camera equipment.

For a guide to how thieves and pickpockets work, check out the FCO’s passport hussle videos, on the FCOtravel You Tube channel.