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Jewish World Review April 10, 2001 / 17 Nissan, 5761

Mary-Beth MclLaughlin

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Consumer Reports


How to avoid becoming a target of thieves

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- Business travelers need to stay alert and minimize their risks if they hope to avoid becoming a target of robbers or kidnappers, says a nationally known expert on the topic.

Terry Riley, author of Travel Can Be Murder: A Business Traveler's Guide to Personal Safety" which offers 707 tips of how to avoid becoming a victim while on the road, said smart travelers avoid sharing personal information with strangers, stay aware of their surroundings, at all times, especially when in the airport or hotel, and know in advance what they will do if confronted by a gunman demanding money.

"People who are not victims are very suspicious about unusual things and they act on them," says Riley, a former police officer and criminal psychologist who lives in California.

A traveler should avoid letting a thief learn too much by putting only a first initial and last name on credit cards and hotel and airline reservations, and tucking identification inside a suitcase pocket rather than using a laminated business card as a luggage tag.

"Good criminals can exploit what they find out about you," he said. "If they identify you by name, that tends to disarm you."

Luggage tags with an American flag should not be used, Riley said, because many foreign kidnappers are targeting U.S. citizens for kidnapping because they can collect as much as $1 million in ransom.

"Kidnapping has changed. It used to be for political reasons, but now, it's almost exclusively an economic crime," he said. He said he urges corporations to train executives to minimize their risk of kidnapping. He also suggested reported strange behavior to security at an airport, to check out taxi companies before getting in one in a foreign land, by varying their routines, keeping an eye out for strangers when entering and leaving a building, and taking less conspicuous vehicles than limousines.

Other issues and how to handle them that business travelers must be aware of include:

- Air rage: Anyone acting weird before boarding a plane should be reported to security and if a passenger starts acting up on a flight, a smart traveler will pay attention to what is going on and will get involved in trying to subdue someone. "It's like no other situation that there is, because you can't leave. Don't ignore it."

- Taxis: Because a traveler has absolutely no control over a taxi once in it, Riley suggests checking out taxi companies before traveling to a foreign country by calling the U.S. embassy and asking them to describe what a taxi there should look like. "And in the U.S., make sure you do not take a maverick taxi. Take one that's dispatched from a long line at the airport, for example," he said.

Mary-Beth MclLaughlin writes for Toldeo Blade. Comment by clicking here.

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