Theft on the Road

Take steps to ensure your valuables and personal information are safe during your next hotel stay.

Travel is often about adventure and relaxation, but there is nothing restful about becoming a victim of hotel theft.

People report thieves lifting everything from heirloom jewelry left on the edge of a bathtub to cash and credit cards stowed in luggage. While crime can occur anywhere, there are steps travelers can take to protect themselves.

Before checking into a room, travelers ought to pay attention to the hotel’s environment, according to Bill Nesbitt, president of Security Management Services International. Take note of how the property appears from the parking lot to the lobby.

“If leaves aren’t trimmed or (the hotel) doesn’t appear clean, move on down the road,” he said.

When choosing a space to park a vehicle, secure a spot visible from the hotel room and near a light source. Travelers may not immediately notice security features such as surveillance cameras throughout the hotel, but they can be a deterrent to thieves.

Protect Personal Information

Of course, valuables aren’t limited to tablets and diamond rings. People need to safeguard personal information when traveling, too. Leave behind unneeded items that carry personal information such as Social Security numbers, said Jonathan Blanton, chief of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section.

People should try to mitigate risks while traveling.

“Use credit cards instead of debit; they come with more protections,” Blanton said.

Another idea for travelers: Carry prepaid cards that can be used like cash but are not tied to any personal accounts.

“Everyone used to use traveler’s checks,” he said. “Prepaid cards are the modern equivalent.”
People should also consider what they do while on a free Wi-Fi connection, which many hotels provide.

In the event property or personal information is stolen, it’s important to report it. That might mean delaying a drive to the beach or canceling dinner reservations, but the sooner the better when reporting theft. In addition to alerting the hotel’s front desk, report the crime to the police.

“Take time to make reports. It’s going to be a hassle but will save you later,” Blanton said. It can even be helpful to contact local law enforcement once back home from the trip. Another call to make is to the insurance company to start a claim. Again, call soon after the crime happens.

People typically file hotel-loss claims for things such as electronics and jewelry, according to Tiff May, Safeco Insurance Mid-Atlantic Regional Claims service manager.

Consider Additional Coverage

What travelers may not realize is that while many home-insurance policies cover property losses wherever they occur, there can still be limits to how much is paid out. For example, an engagement ring may be worth $3,500, but the policy may limit payouts for jewelry to $2,500 per loss, May said.

For people who want to travel with expensive jewelry or high-end camera gear, it may make sense to get additional coverage for those items. The same goes for identity-theft-protection coverage.

Consult an insurance agent about policies to be sure of what’s covered, what limits are for payouts and to discuss options for additional levels of protection.

Carrie Wise is a freelance writer from Shaker Heights, Ohio.