Crime Trends

Airline Boarding Passes

Airline Boarding Passes 580 250 Greg Ellifritz

As more and more people are using cell phone apps to display boarding passes, this problem may eventually become non-existent.  If, however, you still use printed boarding passes, you should probably shred, burn, or otherwise destroy them.  Do not leave them laying around your airplane seat of casually toss them in the trash can at your destination gate.

According to the article linked below, there is a massive amount of personal information available on your boarding passes.


What’s in a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot


““Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day,” Cory said. “I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.”

The access granted by Lufthansa’s site also included his friend’s phone number, and the name of the person who booked the flight. More worrisome, Cory now had the ability to view all future flights tied to that frequent flyer account, change seats for the ticketed passengers, and even cancel any future flights.

The information contained in the boarding pass could make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure his friend’s Star Alliance frequent flyer account. For example, that information gets you past the early process of resetting a Star Alliance account PIN at United Airline’s “forgot PIN” Web site.”


Be careful out there.


Pillars of Awareness

Pillars of Awareness 2658 675 Greg Ellifritz

Correctly judging the mood of the crowd is more difficult in foreign cultures.  There are, however, a few social constants upon which you can rely almost everywhere in the world.


The best resource for learning these constants and social “rules” is the book Left of Bang.  The authors of that book successfully taught the material to US soldiers and Marines stationed in hot zones all around the world.


If you don’t want to read the book, I would suggest the summary article linked below.


Applying the Pillars to Your Everyday Life


The article discusses individual behavioral analysis by focusing on “clusters” of characteristics that allow you to determine if a person is comfortable/uncomfortable and dominant/submissive.  Those factors will help you evaluate the target’s intention and attitude towards you.


It’s well worth your time to read.



Watching Cops

Watching Cops 350 285 Greg Ellifritz

I get a lot of questions about how to assess relative safety in a foreign country.  I wrote a significant portion of a chapter in my book discussing the topic.  Here is some more information.


James LaFond writes a lot of material from a very unique viewpoint. It’s not stuff that you see every day.  This article is about how to watch police patrol patterns to get a better idea of your neighborhood’s safety.  It is equally as useful here at home as it is in the developing world.


Watching Cops: Using Observable Police Activity to Assess the Risk Level of an Urban Locale





Some of the above links (from and others) are affiliate links.   As an Amazon associate I earn a small percentage of the sale price from qualifying purchases.

If you would like to further support my work, head over to my Patreon page.

ATM Skimmers

ATM Skimmers 955 164 Greg Ellifritz

ATM skimmers used to be pretty rare.  They were large contraptions that fit over the outside of the card reader on the ATM.  They were most commonly seen in tourist areas on “stand alone” ATMs that weren’t regularly serviced.  Now it seems that the ATM technicians are installing small bluetooth compatible skimmers to steal your data inside the machines themselves, at least in Mexico.


My best advice is to avoid ATMs in obvious tourist areas and to use the ATMs that are inside a bank.  Although not a foolproof strategy, doing this will at least limit your chances of having your card data stolen.


One other thing…for foreign travel, you want a traditional ATM card, NOT an ATM debit card.  The traditional cards have daily withdrawal limits so the crooks can’t clean you out.  With the debit card, they can take out more money and charge things to your account.  The traditional ATM card will help limit the damages if your data is stolen.

For more information about skimmers in Mexico, read:

Tracking Bluetooth Skimmers in Mexico

Learning How Moto-Robbers Operate

Learning How Moto-Robbers Operate 735 446 Greg Ellifritz


Being an avid traveler and having spent some time in Argentina, several of my friends sent me this video of a recent Buenos Aires robbery that was caught on camera, asking if there were prevention lessons that could be learned for people both at home and traveling abroad.


The video is short and worth your time to watch. A Canadian traveler was taking a bicycle tour of Buenos Aires when he was accosted by an armed man riding a motorcycle. The robber was rather inept and didn’t get what he was looking for. The tourist was very lucky, we shouldn’t rely on criminal incompetence to ensure our safety.  Watch the video below:



What can we learn from this?


1) Don’t tempt the criminals. Cycling around with an expensive camera in a third world country is asking to be robbed. Keep anything of value well hidden when out and about in a foreign city. Better yet, leave expensive items in your hotel safe.


In Colombia, the locals have a descriptive term for tourists who do things which make it easy for a criminal to victimize them. Colombians call it “dar papaya.” The term literally means “to give papaya.” In other words, you are so vulnerable it’s like giving the criminal a sweet treat. When traveling in foreign countries, don’t “dar papaya.”


2) No matter if you are at home or abroad, you should be alert for deliberate approaches in public places. Most people purposely chart a path to maximize space between individuals or groups in a crowded public space. When someone walks (or rides) directly toward you in any public location, your alarm bells should be going off. The motorcyclist here saw the victim and immediately plotted an intercept course to block his path. That’s a bad sign. If you see that happening, you should immediately make an aggressive escape. If escape is impossible, you should be accessing a weapon and getting ready to defend yourself.


3) Be especially aware of guys on motorcycles in foreign countries. Robbers commonly use motorcycles to commit their crimes because they can make a quick escape and can’t be easily followed by police on foot or in cars. Motorcycle helmets also hide the robber’s identity and provide protection in case a victim decides to fight back.


Most commonly, robbers operate in teams of two. One will drive the motorcycle and one will perform the robbery. If you see two men on the same motorcycle, be especially cautious. You may be getting set up for a robbery attempt.


4) Robbers all over the world try to avoid attention. Notice how the robber here picked off the victim when he got separated from the rest of his group. He also was very concerned with keeping his gun close to the body or concealed. He didn’t want anyone else to know what’s going on.


Also notice how the robber fled as soon as the other member of the tourist’s bike group got off his bike and approached the two. Anything you do to draw attention to yourself in a criminal attack will likely be beneficial. This guy accidentally benefited by the attention he received. He should have worked harder to make this attention more purposeful.


Screaming the word “thief,” “help,” or “no” will get people looking at you. Calmly saying the word “amigo” won’t. Even if you don’t know any of the foreign language, people worldwide understand the word “No” when screamed in loud English.


5) Dithering can get you killed. The victim’s fate here was completely at the whim of the robber. The victim took absolutely no control of the situation, leaving his well being to the whims of a criminal psychopath. In third world countries where life is even cheaper than it is here, doing that can have fatal consequences.


Make a conscious decision and act. Whether you choose to comply, resist, or flee, any action you take is better than leaving your fate in the hands of a criminal.


6) Knowing some of the local language is tremendously helpful. The robber kept saying “sacate la mochila,” instructing the victim to “take off the backpack.”


The victim clearly didn’t understand and thought the robber wanted his bicycle. Misunderstanding the language could have been seen as resistance by the robber. It’s one thing to decide to resist and to do it. It’s something completely different to be killed because you never learned any of the local language.


Wherever I travel, I try to learn as much of the language as possible. I generally use the audio programs by Pimsleur to quickly gain some proficiency in the language of the country in which I am traveling. Don’t be the clueless, naive, American (or Canadian). Learn some of the local language. It may save your life.



Police Extortion in Bali

Police Extortion in Bali 629 357 Greg Ellifritz

Last week I wrote about a Nigerian police extortion effort targeting gay folks.  In this week’s installment of police corruption news, here is a video of a couple traffic officers extorting a bribe from a Japanese tourist in Bali.


Police Caught On Video Extorting Tourist In Bali


The tourist’s motorcycle headlight didn’t work (during a daytime ride).  The fine for the offense is the US equivalent of $7.  The tourist paid a $60 bribe to get out of the ticket.



If you want information about how to handle interactions like this, I have an entire chapter on the topic in my book Choose Adventure.



Middle East Travel Safety

Middle East Travel Safety 1024 768 Greg Ellifritz

The Middle East is an area of the world where I haven’t spent a lot of time.  I had a wonderful trip to Jordan in 2019.  I also spent a couple weeks in Egypt way back in 2007.  I would have no qualms about the safety of visiting either of those countries today.

If we go a little farther afield, my expertise is minimal.  Fortunately for you, the folks from the Against the Compass wrote up a compendium of safety information for all of the Middle Eastern countries.


If you are looking to travel there, please check out the article linked below.




The Favelas in Rio

The Favelas in Rio 1200 800 Greg Ellifritz

Rio de Janeiro is one of my favorite cities in the world.  So far, I’ve visited the city five times.  As Brazil is one of the few countries still open to US travelers, I might be making another trip down there later this year.


The city’s slums are called favelas.  They contain a stunning mixture of hard working people, cops, and criminal drug gangs.  The article below provides a great description of what’s going on in these vibrant neighborhoods.  If you like Brazilian culture, I think you’ll enjoy it.


Four Decades of Terror: Rio de Janeiro’s Never-Ending ‘Drug War’


“As informal, self-built communities, favelas exist outside the regulated city. Services like water and electricity are typically pirated from the main grid and not paid for. The persistent failure of Brazil to incorporate favelas into official society keeps them vulnerable and condemned to exploitation by criminals, police, and politicians, in many cases these working together. Although the 20th-century drug boom worsened the situation, by entrenching violence and the interests of crime and corruption, it is far from a modern phenomenon.”


I did formal favela tours on two of my trips to Rio.



Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their "house."

Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their “house.”


The favelas are Rio de Janeiro’s low rent slums.  You would be astounded at how few amenities were present in such a rich city.  The favelas don’t have running water.  Most electricity is “stolen” by running a wire out to a traffic signal on the “street” in front of the residents’ shacks.  Most Brazilian favelas are completely controlled by drug gangs.


Some have been “pacified” by police intervention.  Over the years I have spent time in both types.  While “pacification” is a controversial topic among Brazilians, it was clear to me that the pacified favelas were very different than those run by the drug gangs.


Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.

Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.


On my most recent trip, I visited two pacified favelas, Vila Canoas and Rochina.  They were quite safe and doing brisk (drug free) business.  Unlike when I visited favelas controlled by drug gangs, there was no need to watch out for warring drug dealers or snipers on the roof.  It was actually safe to take photographs in the pacified favelas.  It was quite different from when I toured the same favelas when they were run by drug gangs in 2007.


Rochina, Rio's largest favela with about 150K residents.

Rochina, Rio’s largest favela with about 150K residents.


If you make it to Brazil, I’d highly recommend taking a guided tour of some favelas.  Don’t go there on your own.  If you are especially adventurous, you can try going to a night time “Baile Funk” dance party.  It is a unique cultural experience.


African Police Extortion Efforts

African Police Extortion Efforts 641 358 Greg Ellifritz


According to this article Nigerian Police Officers are using the pandemic as an excuse to harass the LGBTQ community, forcing them to pay their way out of trouble..


Nigerian Police Are Extorting People Who ‘Look Gay’


If you aren’t gay and vacationing in sunny Nigeria, why should you care?


You should care because this is the way corrupt foreign cops/soldiers extort everyone.  This month they are extorting gay folks.  They will use the same tactics next month to get bribe money from “drug users,”  foreign tourists, or people they suspect having Covid-19.  The rationale for the extortion is always something different, but the net effects are the same.

Take some time to read this story and come up with a plan to handle similar situations.


Would you get on the bus like these folks did?


Would you unlock your phone?


Would you pay the $200 bribe?


Have you considered that your personal appearance could make you the target of corrupt police officers?


You should think about all these issues before your next international trip.


Travel Scam Compendium

Travel Scam Compendium 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

The chapter on scams and hustles in my book generates more positive feedback than any other.  I’m actually working on expanding that information and turning it into an entirely different book later this year.


Until then, you’ll have to suffice with learning everything you can from articles like this one.


15 Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)


If you travel at all outside of the USA, it would be smart to read up on these common scams that target foreigners.  I’ve seen many of them in my travels.  If you are interested in the topic, tay tuned for my next book!




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