This article was contributed to us by Loo Cheng Chuan
My wife and I are in the fashion trade and this requires us to travel to Europe frequently to visit various fashion brands and stores.
It was an ordinary day in Italy when we visited a fashion store upon our arrival in a shopping mall with a luggage. As we wanted to do some photo taking of the latest fashion pieces in the store, we (naively) left the luggage – with a haversack in it – by the store counter at their staff request and went ahead with our photoshoot.
It did not cross my mind that the crowded store was understaffed with only two employees. After twenty minutes, my wife discovered that the flap of our luggage was unzipped and alas her haversack was missing, and in it was some money, her passport, credit cards, ID card and mobile phone. The store staff were too busy and didn’t notice anything.
What do you do if you are ever caught overseas in a situation like this?
Overseas Theft – What To Do If You Are A Victim?
Racing against time, I quickly sat down, took deep breath to steady myself and did the following:
1. Activate “Find My iPhone”: Use another phone to activate “Find My iPhone” immediately to track the thief. Unfortunately, in this case, the thief was proficient, and had switched off the app so we couldn’t track it.
2. Cancel all credit cards immediately: As a safety precaution, you should have your credit cards numbers and the bank 24-hour hotline saved in another secured app. It is easier and faster to have someone in Singapore (or your home country) to do the bank calling for you than for you to do the calling from overseas. I asked a friend to help me from Singapore.
Editor’s note: Readers should exercise their own discretion when writing down their credit card numbers on a document, as doing so may carry its own risks. While many credit cards do come with two-factor authentication, we advise that you should store card details only on secured data vault that you are familiar with.
3. Lock down the iPhone remotely: iPhone has a “Lost Mode” function that when activated, will lock down the iPhone remotely, rendering the phone unusable permanently, protecting your data. I am sure other smart phones have similar features.
4. Change all our email and social media account passwords immediately to be on the safe side, before we lose our social media identity.
5. Call the phone company to temporary suspend the lost mobile line, to avoid the mobile line being used to activate a WhatsApp, WeChat or other social media accounts which are linked to the mobile number.
6. Search the nearby dustbins and information counters for the lost passport. It is rumoured that many thieves have an ethics not to steal the passport which is often useless to them. They would usually dump it in the nearby dustbin. However, in my case, by the time I know of this practice the next morning, the dustbins were all cleared by the shopping mall cleaners.
7. Call Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) hotline for help to get a temporary travel document. MFA was very helpful and sympathetic towards our situation. After getting a police report sent to them via email, they courier a temporary travel document back to us within a few days. I was so impressed and grateful that I wrote to Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan to thank him and his wonderful embassy staff in Europe.
8. Make a police report for travel insurance claim. Be very careful of how you word your statement as the travel insurer can use it against you. If the account worded in the police report recorded the theft as a result of your negligence, the insurance company may decide not to pay for your losses. Unfortunately, in our case, our travel insurer provider refused to cover for our losses as they deemed that the loss was due to our negligence. Also, you shouldn’t automatically assume that your travel insurer will cover your losses.
Losing your passport and your personal belongings during your overseas travels is a harrowing experience, so please guard them dearly.
Many Singaporeans, including myself, are often spoilt by how safe our country is that we often forget most countries are unsafe, relative to Singapore. This was the worst theft experience of our lives but with each life lesson, we become wiser.
Please share freely to all who are keen in traveling this March school holidays. If anyone is hit with a similar experience, you now know what to do.
Loo Cheng Chuan is a father of three and founder of the 1M65 movement. To find out more about the 1M65 movement, you can watch our DollarsAndSense Tonight interview with him: