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How passport hustlers steal your documents

A set of videos showing the various ways in which thieves try to steal tourists' passports have been published by the British Foreign Office (FO) as a warning to travellers this summer.

The footage depicts a number of situations whereby thieves use distraction techniques, such as making a noise or bumping into people, in order to pilfer passports.


The video above also shows how travellers who are forced into a bottleneck situation become vulnerable targets.

More than 20,000 British passports were reported lost or stolen last year, according to the FO. Officials hope that the Know Before You Go campaign will help people ensure they are not targets.

Cases this year have included a student backpacking in Peru, who was distracted when a local man “accidentally” pushed him, giving a female accomplice the opportunity to grab his rucksack.

In Rome, a holidaymaker’s attention was grabbed by a man knocking on the window of his railway carriage. At that moment, his partner in crime snatched his bag containing not only his passport but all of his valuable camera equipment.



Holidaymakers who have their passports stolen may need to report the theft to the police and then spend time at the local consulate or embassy while they are issued with an emergency travel document.

James Freedman, stealth crime expert, said: “Pickpockets and thieves constantly evolve their techniques and tactics. These videos show just a handful of ways that a pickpocket might attempt to steal from you, so remember some basic advice to stay safe.

If you don’t need to take your passport with you, leave it in your hotel safe instead. Only carry what you need and keep valuables in a secure pocket. If you have a bag or case, never let it out of your sight.

"Be more alert in crowds and wary of anyone getting too close. Finally, try not to advertise the location of prized possessions by patting your pockets or bags. That's why you'll often find pickpockets near the "Beware Pickpockets" sign!"



More than 400 organisations within the travel industry have committed to raising awareness about this kind of theft this summer.

Tips to help prevent against pickpocketing include being aware of your surroundings and being wary of strangers who take an unusual amount of interest in you.

The FO suggests locking passports in a safe but says if you need to keep it with you, try to ensure it cannot be seen.

It also suggests making two photocopies of your passport - leaving one with friends or family, while taking the second with you, or storing an electronic copy securely. During a night out, it might be better to use the photocopy as an alternative form of ID.

Holidaymakers should also be aware that some countries will only allow you to use a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date you travel so you should check entry requirements before you go. Everyone should also fill in the passport's emergency and next of kin page before they go, it is advised.