Travel in France: How to avoid getting your passport pinched

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Travel in France: How to avoid getting your passport pinched

It's no secret that pickpockets thrive in France, especially Paris. Here's how to stay safe from passport thieves.


The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has launched an awareness campaign as the peak holiday season gets underway, urging travellers to keep their passports safe.

And it's certainly useful advice, not least considering a total of 1,613 British passports were lost or stolen in France in 2015. 

James Freedman, the police-appointed UK Fraud Prevention Ambassador, has revealed the typical techniques used by passport thieves to target victims.

In a special video for the FCO campaign, the stealth crime expert warns holidaymakers to be on the lookout for four typical scams.

The imposter

An unsuspecting tourist hands over her passport. Screengrab: FCO/ YouTube

This scam involves the thief posing as a police officer or other authority figure who quickly walks off with your passport in hand after requesting to see your identification. 

The Clean-Up

Helpful stranger or crafty pickpocket? Screengrab: FCO/ YouTube

If a friendly stranger points out that you have been hit by bird poo and offers to help rub you down, beware. It may be a con-artist who has planted the stain with a view to getting close and pickpocketing his victim while they are distracted.

The Check-In cheat

Passport swiped from under tourist's nose at check in desk. Screengrab: FCO/ YouTube

Holidaymakers fresh off the plane are often targeted while they check in to their accommodation. A bustling hotel reception and distracted guests filling in forms can provide rich pickings for a thief who only has to lift the passports straight off the front desk.

'Taking Things Easy'

Filching a passport from a jacket on the back of a chair. Screengrab: FCO/ YouTube

The final common scenario shown in the video involves a tourist enjoying a café con leche in a sunny plaza paying more attention to his girlfriend than his belongings, which include his passport stored within the pocket of his jacket.

The thief casually takes a seat at a nearby table, slips his own jacket on the chair and then slips the passport from his chosen victim as he pretends to reach into his own pocket.

Watch the video:

“With identity theft on the rise, the actual cost of losing your passport could be thousands of pounds. Criminals and con-men are always evolving the tricks they use to target tourists, but a few simple precautions will really help you to stay safe,” warns Freedman

“Only carry what you really need and keep cash and other valuables in a secure pocket or bag. Remember that if you put bags down, they should always be in your line of sight. If you don’t need your passport and other valuables when you’re out and about, leave them at the hotel. Above all, trust your instincts and be aware of anyone invading your personal space.”

SEE ALSO: VIDEO - The top five street scams to avoid in Paris


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