Beware of Pickpockets
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Beware of Pickpockets Chiang Mai Reviews
Advice from Thailand's only tuk tuk/tour guide Mar 26, 2009
Paul Collins, who is my driver, translator ...and friend suggested that I share this information with all of you. He has just recently had a customer who went through a similar situation and Paul, being Paul, was able to help the unfortunate soul with all of the paperwork and translation that was involved in getting the situation made as right as it could be. Read it....and learn...
IF YOUR PURSE OR WALLET IS LOST OR STOLEN WHILE TRAVELING
(or...how to extend an extraordinarily great vacation by becoming a person in extraordinary circumstances)
We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed using your name, address, SS#, credit, etc. But, what happens when you're in a foreign country? You barely know the language. You're all by yourself.....and every bit of identification, money and your return ticket are gone!
Unfortunately I (author of this piece) have first hand knowledge,because my travel wallet was stolen from my purse at the airport as I waited to board my flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok for my return to the USA. I usually make a habit of carrying things in different places, but on that morning I was running late and every time I thought I had a chance to "hide" things in various places in my bag and on my person....someone or something needed my attention. The wallet was a new one. Given to me by my Mom as a Christmas gift. So, even though I didn't usually carry things all in one place I felt that I had to at least use it once...and I did...on that trip and that trip only. (It was never recovered) Not only did I loose all of my money and credit cards, but the wallet contained my US drivers license, my birth certificate, my return ticket....In other words everything that could identify me or be used to pay for hotel, plane fare, food etc!
In less than 24 hours the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, (as well as several others) had a credit line approved to buy an Apple computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information on-line, and more. The list of things that I had to deal with just went on and on...for more than several years.
Here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know.
As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know who to call. Keep those where you can find them easily (having to hunt for them is additional stress you WON'T need at that point!). I suggest keeping a list or copies of your credit cards with the toll free numbers along with copies of your passport and visa in your money belt. (This was one of the places that I intended to "store" some of my information that fated morning....but never had a chance) Make copies of your passport and put one copy in each suitcase, backpack....anything, that's going on the trip with you. Also, speaking of money belts. The best one that I've found is the skinny one that goes around your waist under your clothing. ...Also, after this little learning experience I have always notified my bank and my credit card companies of the dates that I will be traveling and exactly where I will be for the entire trip. That way if charges start to come in from Rome and I told them I'm going to be in Chiang Mai Thailand the entire time I'm away, someone will question the purchase. Lastly, before you go on your trip make sure that the "Trouble Hot Line" to your credit card company is open 24 hours a day. I found that some of the numbers were not available after midnight Pacific Time so they were of no use to me during that first crucial 24 hours.
File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is
one). I did find this a bit of a drag here since first I had to write out in longhand exactly what had happened. I then had to wait while someone at the police station translated everything I had written into Thai. Lastly, I had to sit and follow along with my English version of the theft while someone read me the Thai version in English and I had to instruct the officer about correcting anything that wasn't exact. Not exactly what I wanted to do at that point when I thought I was going to either have a complete nervous breakdown or throw up.
But here's what is perhaps most important: I never, ever thought to do this.
Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. (After ten days when I finally got back home. Too late then! ) The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
By the time I was advised to do this - almost 2 weeks after the theft all the damage had been done (there are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert). After that, no additional damage was done.
As I said, it took me ten additional days to get home. I made calls to friends and family who live in Hong Kong who wired money to me....and was blessed with the unusual friendship and good spirit of the Thai people who continually assured me that "A Thai person did not do this"...and they hadn't. (This event happened on my first ever trip to Thailand and the help and support of the Thai people is the reason I came back year after year....and eventually moved here permanently) Even though I was rushing for my plane that morning I can still see the face of the woman who continually bumped into me from behind and the two people who "staged" the "trip and partial fall" as I was trying to board the escalator at the airport. No, they weren't Thai. I realize (contrary to what some of my friends in the States said when I got back, "This wouldn't have happened in the US" many of them told me. But I disagree. It can happen anywhere, to anyone!!) I had always said when I was "out and about" that nobody could pick my pocket or my pocketbook without my knowing it....and I was wrong, wrong, wrong. These people are professional thieves....in the right circumstances, under the right conditions we don't stand a chance!
The numbers you will need should something like this happen to you are:
Equifax 1-800 525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW) 1-800-301-7195
Social Security Administration also has a fraud line at 1-800-269-0271
If you're in Chiang Mai and have something like this happen call Paul at 0849483315 or 0850484606. He has access to officials at Immigration, Police, US Consulate and a great English speaking attorney as well as many other local people who might just be able to make things a bit easier during a stressful time. I wish he had been around when I went through my "extended vacation" in Thailand!
Part of the Sometimes a map and LP just aren't enough! travel blog
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