Pick-Pocketing Happens….even to the most cautious of people!!

If you don’t know how to prepare for pickpockets here’s some tips we gave out in an earlier post.

Let’s go back to my first day as a resident in Madrid. I had just gotten my apartment and I was settling in but I only had two days until I went back to the United States to visit family in the summer. I needed to make sure that all of my resident paperwork and documentation had been sent from Mallorca to my new autonomous community. So I went out to one of the government buildings so I could check on my residence status and I took all of my paperwork along: my passport, a complete copy of my passport, my expired residence card, a copy of my residence card, my background check from the US (which I think also had my fingerprints), and the same bag just so happened to have all of my Spanish bank account information in it.

By the time I found the office, as it was hidden in an alleyway, it was closed….aka everything by 2pm in Spain. I thought this was unfortunate but I was on Grand Via, the most well-known street in Madrid (which by the way just had 1000 sheep crossing it the other day?!), so I figured I would go to Primark and buy things for my apartment.

I didn’t make it that far. I saw a Five Guys on the way and I couldn’t help myself, I had to eat a cheeseburger. Don’t judge me. When you haven’t had a real beef burger in as long as it had been for me, you would totally go in too. Inside, I got my burger and fries and I sat in the corner of the restaurant because for some reason I had this thought pop in my mind about my friend being pick-pocketed in Madrid. I put my purse on my knee under the table and my bad of documents right beside me. Then my mom called and wanted to talk about my trip to America.

About five minutes into the burger and conversation, I realized my bag with all my paperwork was gone!!! I had not been pick-pocketed prior to this experience. And I am always so careful. But for some reason it didn’t even phase me, it’s like I knew it was going to happen.   And this nonchalant attitude helped me think clearly in the heat of the moment, and made it easier for other people to help me because I wasn’t frantic or panicking.

So what happens when you are pick-pocketed or just plain robbed in a different country?

1) First, find a phone if yours was stolen (thank goodness mine wasn’t) and notify your banks via your secured online login (many banks have emergency emails or live chats that they are quick to respond to), or call the bank’s international or regional number to tell them that your cards have been stolen. Lucky for us we live in 2017 and you can find all of the information that you need online. If you don’t have access to wifi then hopefully you have written these numbers down before your trip. Once you get in contact with your bank, they can turn your cards off with the touch of a button. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, your bank will ask you security questions and you can even ask for new cards to be sent to your permanent address and you can then have them priority shipped. Make sure that you can still withdraw money or transfer money using your account number and routing.

2) Then, go to the closest national police of the country you are in and report all of the belongings that have been stolen. Make sure you get a copy of this police report. This way if you do run into anymore mishaps or traveling issues you can prove that your things were in fact stolen. Since I had “overstayed” my visa in Spain and did not yet have my residency card and all of my documents to prove that I had renewed my visa/residency were stolen, I had to have a police report to take to the immigration office to get another printout of my documentation.

3) You should always tuck money away in a safe place in your hotel/hostel room (a safe or locked locker or box), or in a different pocket or a different bag, but if you didn’t tuck any extra bills away and/or all of your credit cards were stolen, you still have a few options as to how to get money. Have someone from home send you a money gram or wire you money to a Western Union or an authorized, reliable money transfer agent. If you are not traveling alone, you may even be able to use Transferwise, PayPal or Venmo , and even Facebook to transfer money to your travel buddy, so they can just withdraw the money and pass you the cash and quickly get paid back.

4) Go to your country’s embassy or consulate as soon as possible, preferably at opening time. The embassy/a consulate may not be in the town you are visiting, so find the closest office. Once you get there you can get an emergency passport made. A US emergency passport costs $135, or however much an original fully-validated passport costs at the time, but it only takes thirty to sixty minutes to have it printed and in hand. You can continue your trip and fly home with no problems. The US emergency passport is usually only good for 6months but you can get one with a validity up to 1year, if you are an extended traveler and can prove your travel dates.

Some countries have different terms for how long your passport must be valid before you can enter or leave the country, so if you are an extended traveler be sure to check the passport validity requirements for any of the countries you are visiting along the way. For example, some countries may require your passport to be valid for at least six more months from the point of entry and/or exiting, so if your emergency passport is only valid for 6months but you plan to visit a country within the next two months which requires a six month validity date, then you will not be allowed access to this country. For this reason, you may want to go ahead and order a new permanent passport as well. If you are a US citizen and it is the first time you have had your passport stolen, apparently you can replace an emergency passport with a permanent one for no extra charge.

5) After you have your emergency passport you should ask the embassy or consulate how to get a new entry-point stamp to validate your date of entry in the country you are visiting. You may need this to continue traveling so you are not accused of over-staying your welcome, and also to show US customs and other country authorities where you have been, how long you have been there and how long you’ve been out of your country of origin. The only advice I can give for this is to ask as many questions as possible. Find out the forms you need, the fees you need to pay, where you need to go, the names of the documents or the stamp in the language of the country you are in, how long it takes to get the stamp, if you need to make an appointment, etc.

When I went to the embassy in Madrid, it was closed, but the security people at the front of the embassy entrance still helped me. They called the information number for me and they allowed me to speak to someone from the US from their phone. I was able to find out all of the information I needed to return to the embassy at opening hours and get everything settled. As I’ve said in previous posts, people generally want to help. So don’t mind asking everyone details to find answers.

Hopefully you never have to use this information, but if you are as absent minded as me, I hope this post at least helps you unblock your mind, make a to-do list, start in the right places, and more easily solve your problems. Honestly, it is not as difficult as you think to suss everything out when you’ve been got. You may just lose a day or day and a half of your vacation/travel time. Its just lucky for us that many things are solved with the right information, and a little bit of time.


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