7 Steps You Always Need to Take When You’ve Been Robbed Abroad

Jul 13, 2019

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In February, I was robbed while riding on the back of a motorbike in Bali. I’m not sure what surprised me more, having my Google Pixel snatched out of my hand at 30 mph or how it affected me as a traveler once the shock wore off.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, I screamed and yelled for my partner, who was driving the motorbike, to chase after the thieves. But in the scary pursuit, we lost them after only a few turns. The experience left me feeling violated and surprisingly shaken.

Unfortunately, theft by bike is quite common in Asia, particularly in Bali, Cambodia and Vietnam. But there are a handful of actions travelers can and should take immediately after they’ve been robbed and in the coming days. Here are the steps to follow if you’ve been the victim of theft while traveling.

Let the Perpetrator Go

Basically, don’t do what we did. The latest Google Pixel, although a top-notch phone, is not worth the risk of getting into a dangerous or potentially violent situation. By chasing after the perpetrator on a bike or on foot you’re putting yourself and those around you in harm’s way. Especially when you don’t know if they have any kind of weapons, whether they’re under the influence or in extremely desperate circumstances.

If you have the Find My iPhone app or an Android equivalent, head to the nearest police station and have them accompany you to try and retrieve it. Either way, staying safe is always the #1 priority.

Regroup in a Safe Place

Find a safe place to calm down, get your bearings and ask for help if necessary. Having your personal items taken from you either by force or in a more sneaky way is a violating and scary experience. It’s very probable that like me, you’ll appear very visibly shaken. The best thing to do in that situation is to walk into a store or a well-lit area with people nearby. This way, you won’t fall victim to another potential crime by someone preying on the vulnerable.

(Photo by AhLamb / Getty Images)
Find a safe, well lit place to regroup and assess the situation. (Photo by AhLamb / Getty Images)

Assess the Situation

When my phone was taken I was reading directions to my boyfriend, so my phone was unlocked. As soon as we pulled our bike over in a safe place, we knew we had to immediately change any and all passwords for apps on my phone. It’s also important to do this on the phone of someone you trust and sign out of all accounts once the passwords have been changed.

If your credit card or wallet gets stolen, it’s important to spring into action and call your provider’s international number so they can cancel it before any purchases are made. If it’s your passport, call or head to your country’s nearest embassy to get a new one.

Make a List of Everything You’ve Lost

This will not only help ease your frazzled brain, but will also help you to understand the damage done so you can present it to your insurance provider. Losing my phone felt like losing an arm.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk famously said, “…I would rather have somebody come up to me, stab me in the stomach with a knife and steal my wallet than lose my phone.” While it’s a bit over the top, the sentiment of being without a phone is spot on. I didn’t have immediate access to all my important apps including Instagram, Gmail, Snapchat and Venmo. Making a written list that I could check off helped me to make sure I’d changed all my passwords and keep track of what I’d need to download once I got a new phone. Better yet, consider using an app such as 1Password, which keeps your passwords safe and makes it easy to change all your passwords quickly from another device.

(Photo by adolfo felix / Unsplash)
Making a list will help you understand what you need to replace and help with your insurance claim. (Photo by adolfo felix / Unsplash)

Contact Your Insurance Provider

Alerting your travel insurance or any other insurance you have is crucial. This way they can walk you through everything you need to do to file a claim and be reimbursed for your lost possessions before you leave the country. Usually, this entails getting a police report within 24 hours of the incident, filling out their paperwork and providing a receipt of purchase for the stolen item or items.

A select number of credit cards offer purchase protection, which might kick in if your items were lost or stolen (terms and conditions, of course, always apply). My Chase Sapphire Reserve is on TPG’s lists of the best cards to offer purchase protection, for example — but because I hadn’t used that card to purchase my phone. Lesson learned.

Take a Trusted Local With You to the Police Station

This one is not always possible for everyone, but it is particularly helpful when you’re traveling in a country where there is a language barrier. We were staying in the villa of a friend that had staff including a housekeeper and a driver.

The next morning we asked the housekeeper if she would accompany us to the nearest local police station. She was sympathetic and agreed to take us and I’m very grateful she did. The police officer didn’t speak much English and also demanded a bribe of $20 for an official police report. I asked if this was normal and she let me know that is was. Without her there, they could have demanded more and the process would have taken a much longer.

Keep Traveling

It’s like that old saying, “you have to get back on the horse that threw you.” The same goes for traveling. It’s OK to feel scared, sad or worried after a traumatic incident, but that shouldn’t stop you from traveling out of fear that it will happen again.

(Photo by Cheryl Ramalho / Getty Images)
Don’t let a minor inconvenience ruin your experience of traveling through amazing places like Bali. (Photo by Cheryl Ramalho / Getty Images)

I’ll admit, in the days after, I found myself feeling fragile in situations I normally wouldn’t and often on the verge of tears. I’ve been to 45 countries and have been traveling around Asia non-stop for over 10 months. That was the first time anything like that has ever happened to me. It might not be my last, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up the opportunity to slurp Laksa in Penang or explore islands in the Philippines.

Featured photo by Blackstation / Getty Images.

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