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FROM CRAIG LAWRENCE, CPP, CAS
THE MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ, GROWING EXPRESSIONS OF ANTI-AMERICAN SENTIMENTS AND THE CHANGING POLITICAL CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND THE WORLD HAVE ELEVATED THE IMPORTANCE OF A CONCERN FOR SAFETY ON THE PART OF ALL TRAVELERS. PERSONAL SECURITY CAN NO LONGER BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED AND AMERICANS ARE WELL ADVISED TO UNDERSTAND THAT HOLDING AN AMERICAN PASSPORT IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY DOES NOT NECESSARILY PROVIDE PROTECTION. TO THE CONTRARY, BEING RECOGNIZED AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN IN A FOREIGN LAND MAY VERY WELL INCREASE OUR PERSONAL RISK. HERE ARE SOME COMMON SENSE TIPS THAT THE SAVVY TRAVELER SHOULD KEEP IN MIND. ALTHOUGH THE OVERALL LEVEL OF THREAT HAS INCREASED, THERE ARE PROACTIVE STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO LOWER THE PERCENTAGES FOR BEING INVOLVED IN A COMPROMISING OR DANGEROUS SITUATION.

TAXIS

1) ALWAYS USE AN ESTABLISHED TAXI COMPANY. INQUIRE AT THE AIRPORT INFORMATION DESK OR THE HOTEL CONCIERGE'S DESK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS. ALSO, ASK THEM WHAT THE CHARGE BASIS IS FOR CABS IN THE AREA.

2) TRY NOT TO LET ANYONE OVERHEAR YOU ORDERING A CAB. THIS WILL HELP PREVENT THE OPPORTUNITY OF AN ILLEGITIMATE CAB FROM PRETENDING TO BE THE ONE YOU ORDERED.

3) ASK THE DRIVER WHAT THE FARE IS BEFORE GETTING IN. ONCE YOU AGREE ON A PRICE, WRITE DOWN THE CAB'S REGISTRATION NUMBER. ACT AS IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE ROUTE. IF YOU FEEL THE DRIVER IS GETTING OFF ROUTE, ASK HIM TO SHOW YOU ON A MAP WHERE YOU ARE AND COMPARE THAT WITH THE LOCATION OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION.

4) IF YOU ORDERED A CAB, ASK THE DRIVER FOR THE NAME AND DESTINATION HE HAS BEEN GIVEN BEFORE GETTING IN. DO NOT PROVIDE THIS INFORMATION TO THE DRIVER FIRST AND THEN ASK HIM TO CONFIRM IT. DON'T GET INTO A CAB YOU HAVEN'T ORDERED.

5) COMPARE THE FACE OF THE DRIVER WITH THE ONE POSTED ON THEIR LICENSE. REQUEST THAT THE WINDOWS BE CLOSED AND DOORS LOCKED WHEN AT ALL POSSIBLE DURING YOUR RIDE.

SUBWAYS AND BUSSES

1) REMOVE YOUR MONEY FROM YOUR WALLET AND HAVE IT COUNTED AND READY BEFORE YOU ENTER THE SUBWAY OR BUS. THIS WAY THIEVES NEVER SEE YOUR WALLET, OR OBSERVE WHERE YOU KEEP IT.

2) DON'T USE FANNY PACKS OR BACKPACKS. IN CROWDED ENVIRONMENTS, THIEVES CAN EASILY SLICE OPEN THE POUCH WITH A RAZOR BLADE AND REMOVE CREDIT CARDS AND MONEY. STRAPS CAN ALSO BE EASILY CUT, ALLOWING THE BAG TO BE SNATCHED WHILE YOU ARE BUMPED OR DISTRACTED BY AN ACCOMPLICE.

3) CARRY A "DUMMY" WALLET IN YOUR POCKET CONTAINING SOME $1 BILLS AND SOME OLD, EXPIRED CREDIT CARDS OR RENTAL CARDS. IF YOU ARE PICK-POCKETED OR ROBBED, YOU CAN GIVE UP THE "DUMMY" WALLET AND STILL HOLD ON TO YOUR VALUABLES.

4) TO AVOID BEING A TARGET, DRESS APPROPRIATELY. TRY TO ASSIMILATE YOUR DRESS WITH WHAT THE LOCALS WEAR. DON'T USE CLOTHING OR JEWELRY THAT IS FLASHY OR REFLECTS AFFLUENCE.

5) IF YOU GET LOST, TRY NOT TO LOOK AT THE SUBWAY MAP TOO MUCH. TRY TO ASK A MATURE FEMALE FOR DIRECTIONS OR FOR HELP IN GETTING TO YOUR DESTINATION.

HOTELS, AIRPORTS, BUS STOPS, AND OTHER PUBLIC AREAS

1) CARRY VALUABLES IN A CONCEALED POUCH OR MONEY BELT WORN UNDERNEATH YOUR CLOTHING. MAKE COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT, ID'S AND CREDIT CARDS (FRONT & BACK) AND KEEP THEM IN A SEPARATE PLACE FROM THE ORIGINALS. BRING AN EXTRA SET OF PASSPORT PHOTOS, TO FACILITATE THE QUICK REPLACEMENT OF YOUR PASSPORT IF IT IS LOST OR STOLEN.

2) TRAVEL LIGHT. DO NOT WALK AROUND WITH LUGGAGE OCCUPYING BOTH HANDS. KEEP YOUR HANDS FREE. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU AT ALL TIMES. IF YOU SUSPECT THAT SOMEONE IS WATCHING YOU OR FOLLOWING YOU, DON'T IGNORE THEM. MAKE EYE CONTACT AND PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY ARE DOING. TRY NOT TO DO TWO OR THREE THINGS AT ONCE, WHICH OCCUPY YOUR HANDS AND YOUR SENSES. IF YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION, FIND THE NEAREST INDIVIDUAL OF AUTHORITY AND START SPEAKING TO THEM.

3) DON'T LET PEOPLE INVADE YOUR PERSONAL SPACE OR GET TOO CLOSE TO YOU. IF A STRANGER ON THE STREET ENGAGES YOU, SUCH AS ASKING THE TIME OR ASKING FOR SPARE CHANGE, DON'T BE AFRAID OF INSULTING THEM BY BACKING UP OR REPOSITIONING YOURSELF TO MAINTAIN YOUR DISTANCE. MANY TIMES WOULD-BE ROBBERS OR RAPISTS WILL PURPOSELY INVADE YOUR PERSONAL SPACE TO TEST YOUR REACTION. IF YOU DO NOT REACT, YOU GIVE THEM THE GREEN LIGHT TO MOVE FORWARD, POTENTIALLY ONTO A MUCH MORE PERSONAL TYPE OF INVASION.

4) DO NOT ACCEPT FOOD OR DRINK FROM STRANGERS. CRIMINALS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE FRIENDLY WITH A POTENTIAL VICTIM AND THEN OFFER THEM DRUGGED FOOD OR DRINK.

5) TRY TO STAY IN LARGER HOTELS, THAT HAVE MORE ELABORATE SECURITY. BOOK A ROOM FROM THE SECOND TO SEVENTH FLOORS ABOVE GROUND LEVEL, TO DETER EASY ENTRANCE FORM THE OUTSIDE, BUT LOW ENOUGH TO THE GROUND FOR FIRE EQUIPMENT TO REACH IN AN EMERGENCY.

6) IF YOU RECEIVE ANY INCOMING CALLS TO YOUR HOTEL ROOM REQUESTING CONFIRMATION OF YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION, TELL THEM THAT YOU WILL GO TO THE FRONT DESK AND HANDLE IT IN PERSON. TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED, NEVER GIVE OUT ANY CREDIT CARD NUMBERS OR PERSONAL INFORMATION ON AN INCOMING CALL.

7) DO NOT LEAVE PERSONAL OR BUSINESS PAPERS IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM. ANY DOCUMENTS WITH PERSONAL INFORMATION ON IT SHOULD BE STORED IN THE HOTEL SAFE.

8) ALWAYS CHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT, OR OTHER HIGH-PROFILE MONEY CHANGING FACILITY. WHEN CHANGING MONEY, TRY NOT TO CHANGE LARGE AMOUNTS, AND POSITION YOURSELF SO THAT OTHER PEOPLE CANNOT VIEW YOUR TRANSACTION. THIEVES HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO HANG AROUND MONEY-CHANGING FACILITIES, AND ONCE A POTENTIAL VICTIM IS IDENTIFIED, AN ACCOMPLICE CAB DRIVER SOLICITS THE VICTIM FOR A FARE. THE FARE IS THEN DRIVEN TO A PRE-ARRANGED LOCATION WHERE HE/SHE IS ROBBED. TRY TO PRE-ARRANGE ANY TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM A MONEY-CHANGING FACILITY. DO NOT CHANGE MONEY ON THE BLACK MARKET.

9) AVOID OBVIOUS TERRORIST TARGETS SUCH AS PLACES WHERE AMERICANS AND/OR WESTERNERS ARE KNOWN TO CONGREGATE. AVOID AMERICAN (EX-PATRIOT) OWNED ESTABLISHMENTS, WHICH CATER TO AMERICANS AND WESTERNERS. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, AVOID LUGGAGE TAGS, DRESS, AND BEHAVIOR THAT MAY IDENTIFY YOU AS AN AMERICAN. BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU DISCUSS WITH STRANGERS, AND WHAT MAY BE OVERHEARD BY OTHERS.

DRIVER SAFETY

1) IF YOU RENT A CAR, CHOOSE A MODEL COMMONLY AVAILABLE LOCALLY. ASK THAT ANY MARKINGS IDENTIFYING IT AS A RENTAL CAR BE REMOVED. CHOOSE A CAR WITH POWER LOCKS, WINDOWS AND AIR CONDITIONING.

2) ALWAYS DRIVE WITH THE DOORS LOCKED AND WINDOWS UP. AVOID DRIVING AT NIGHT IF POSSIBLE.

3) DON'T LEAVE VALUABLES INSIDE THE CAR. IF YOU MUST CARRY THINGS WITH YOU, KEEP THEM OUT OF SIGHT OR LOCKED IN THE TRUNK.

4) DON'T STOP TO ENGAGE ANY PEOPLE WHO APPROACH THE CAR, PICK UP HITCHHIKERS OR HELP A STRANGER. DRIVE IN THE CENTER LANE WHEN POSSIBLE TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR PEOPLE TO APPROACH THE CAR.

5) WHEN DRIVING IN TRAFFIC OR STOPPED AT INTERSECTIONS, ALWAYS LEAVE ONE CAR-LENGTHS DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND OTHER VEHICLES FOR A POTENTIAL ESCAPE ROUTE.

6) PARK ONLY IN WELL-LIT AREAS, NEAR SIDEWALKS OR WALKWAYS. AVOID PARKING NEAR DUMPSTERS, LARGE FOLIAGE, TRUCKS, OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT LIMITS VISIBILITY SURROUNDING THE CAR.

CRAIG LAWRENCE, CPP, CAS IS A BOARD CERTIFIED PROTECTION PROFESSIONAL, A CERTIFIED ANTI-TERRORISM SPECIALIST, AND THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AT UNITED RISK PARTNERS, A GLOBAL RISK MANAGEMENT FIRM HEADQUARTERED IN ELK GROVE VILLAGE, ILLINOIS. HE CAN BE CONTACTED AT (847) 593-9995 OR VIA E-MAIL AT: clawrence@unitedriskpartners.com