Tuesday, July 30, 2013

France: Update--Chinese Tourists Need to Learn How NOT to Become Victims

According to The Guardian, Chinese tourists continue to be an easy mark for French criminals, largely because no one has apparently educated them as to how to avoid becoming a crime victim, whether in Paris or elsewhere around the world.

Although prominently carrying boutique shopping bags that render Chinese tourists very vulnerable, that is the least of the PRC's security lapses that render them easy targets. Alternatively, Chinese tourists should toss the boutique bags and carry their purchases in a well-used and worn backpack.

COMMENT: I would respectfully submit that it is not Paris or other French cities that are responsible for economic crime confronting tourists, but rather foreign ministries that fail to properly educate their travelers on how to avoid becoming a crime victim abroad.

Many Chinese tourists to France use public transportation, such as the Metro, only to fail to realize that a good number of French criminals ride the Metro each day so as to make it very easy to make off with wallets and mobile phones belonging to unsuspecting passengers.

To make matters worse, many Chinese tourists still carry far too much cash than they should--approaching the equivalent of 800-1,200 euros--only to find their trip abroad turning into a major disaster. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, for example, should be educating the Chinese to carry little cash and alternatively use credit, ATM or check cards so they can withdraw small amounts of cash at a time.

Unfortunately, the wholesale pickpocketing, tourist scams, con games and the like that go on in France and most European capitals have focused largely on Asian and Chinese tourists in recent years because of their vulnerability, particularly around museums, art galleries and tourist attractions.

Very often, many pickpockets that flood France and other European cities are made up of youngsters under the age of 18, very often controlled by Eastern European organized crime, which are very hard to neutralize, as they keep moving from city to city. In most cases, if they are caught by police, they are summarily released.

Another facet of tour agencies that specialize in Asian tourists is the fact that many tour groups are huge--often amounting to 50-75 visitors--which makes it impossible for crime victims to spend hours in line to file a police complaint. As a result, many Asian tourists who have become crime victims are back on the bus so quickly that a complaint on most criminals is never filed.

Although I offered a list of do's and don't's for Chinese tourists traveling in Europe a couple of months ago, for those tourists who may have missed the tips, below are crime prevention tips to consider:

1. Travel with a debit, ATM, check or credit card, keeping in mind that several credit card issuers charge a service fee of 3-5% for overseas purchases;

2. Never carry more than €75 in cash and never prominently display in public more than €20;

3. Avoid wearing "fanny" packs;

4. Do not use ATMs that are on the street level. Use only ATMs that are located inside banks. NEVER use ATMs on the street after dark;

5. Avoid displaying your mobile phone in public, particularly a smart-phone, and never make calls from your mobile phone while on the street;

6. Never purchase euros from "black-market" vendors, as you may be given currency that is no longer in circulation;

7. Avoid young children that might gather around you on the street. Most are pickpockets;  

8. You may see signs urging you to be careful of pickpockets on the street. In many cases, such signs have been placed by pickpockets themselves to see whether you physically check where you carry your wallet;

9. It is strongly recommended that you not carry your actual passport on your person, but rather carry a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and the date stamp that you entered the country you are in. This practice is urged to prevent the theft of your passport on the street;

If you carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp page, safeguard your passport in the two-key safe deposit system in the lobby where you can also safeguard cash that you don't need;

10. DO NOT use in-room safes or locked drawers in your guest-room as the hotel has access to both of them;

11. Do not wear logos or insignias identifying the country you are from;

12.  Beverages in convenient "mini-bars" are very expensive.  Purchase bottled water and beverages in a nearby grocery store;

13. NEVER open your guest room door to anyone unless you know who they are;

14. Do not go out alone at night, as all foreign cities pose risks for tourists who are alone;

15.  If you go to a tavern, bar, restaurant, etc. and order a drink of any type, do not leave your drink unattended, as "date-rape" drugs are often used by criminals to immobilize their targets;

16. It is a common practice to leave your television on in your guest-room so as to create the impression that you're still in your hotel;

17. Whether you don't want to be disturbed in your guest-room or not, display the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the outer door so that hotel staff will not bother you;

18. Don't turn your guestroom door into lobby reception when you leave the hotel, as you want to create the impression that they don't know where you are;

19. Be very cautious in using hotel business center computers, as they are often are used by persons that have contaminated computers. If you use a flash drive or a CD to download files, make sure you don't place the flash drive into your computer when you return home; and

20. Be observant of those around you as people you encounter on the street may very well be targeting you for a crime.