It is all too easy, when in the holiday mood, to empty your head and get into that welcome relaxed state of mind. But this is the time when you are at your most vulnerable and should be alert to what can happen when your defences are down.
The tricks employed by the opportunistic thief are explained, below, so that you are more informed of their modus operandi, whether it’s travelling to your villa holiday destination, or about your person.
Be aware upon your arrival to the airport, since this is where an opportunist thief will seek to identify his or her target, which is when most money will be within the party.
Thieves may identify potential targets for many reasons. Some include seeing expensive luggage or a video cam, or they may see a pre-occupied family in a flustered state. Clearly keep possessions close to you, but do keep an eye out for anyone watching you in particular.
Most importantly, check that you are not being followed in the car: if you think you might be then slow down and let them pass. If you remain suspicious then take a note of their registration number and report it to the police. Thieves tend to work as pairs and of mixed gender. They can also work as two individual teams and communicate with each other.
Be aware and look around at ATMs: be prepared with your card and pin number before you go to the machine and don’t count your cash in front of the ATM for onlookers to see. It is advisable that two persons attend the ATM when withdrawing cash, particularly at night. Try to hold less cash by making greater use of your credit cards.
It has been known that certain tricks are played in Barcelona. An old trick is whereby a passerby brushes your shirt and tells you that some bird has made some droppings when it was the same person that actually put it on you in the first instance. By the time you overcome the confusion the passerby runs off with your wallet. In fact, any such trickster could try to distract you in so many different ways, so do be alert, particularly in Barcelona and other major cities.
At the villa;
Do be suspicious of persons that knock on your holiday villa door pretending to wish to speak to the owner or give an obscure name, or appear to sell a product like honey. If suspicious do take their car registration number and report it to the police, as such persons can be just simply assessing the situation.
A common ruse is the gas man arriving to seek an inspection of the gas rubber hoses at the holiday villa. The only gas people in Spain are the heating engineers that are registered, so they would never arrive to a villa without an appointment. These people could show an ID card that could look like the real thing, but such persons are just tricksters and seeking to cheat or steal in some way.
If the entrance door to the holiday villa is some way from the pool, ensure you lock the door.
Lock windows, particularly those without bars and doors. Opportunistic thieves have been known to go into villas to steal when the occupants have been on the patio, or in the pool. Such thieves work very quietly and speedily.
If you have two cars then try to leave one car in the driveway when you go out at night, as well as leave a light on in the villa.
In the car;
A helpful fellow motorist may flag you down indicating that you have a flat tyre on your car, or indicate some other problem with it. When you get out of the car to see what is wrong, or to change the tyre, one of the thieves takes off with a bag and your car keys. The thief having already spiked the tyre at some stage in your journey or at the airport.
Always keep your car locked.
Never display anything in the car, regardless of value. Remove any car rental stickers, which simply serve to draw attention to you as a holidaymaker.
Be careful if the car is loaded with luggage when parked and left unattended. Best go to a secure car park in cities, rather than park in the street.
Beware a family car pulling up alongside of you and an occupant asking if you could kindly change a bank note for them, explaining to you that all the banks are closed and that they need change urgently. The occupants of the car may look innocent enough with a mother and two children alongside. What happens in these situations is that when you then open your purse or wallet by the car window, the money or holder is grabbed by one of the car occupants and the thieves drive off.
What to do;
If you do experience a theft then go directly to the police station and report the incident. Ensure you obtain a crime number, as you would in the UK, in order to be able to make a claim to your insurers.
If you have booked with an agent then get the representative to go with you to the police station and be your interpreter. You may need to pay for the interpreter’s time, which you can claim back from your insurance company, so do obtain a receipt.
Do inform your insurers, by phone and letter, about such an incident as soon as practically possible, as each company has its own deadlines for making a claim, which are usually within a week of returning from your holiday. Give the crime report number, or you will have difficulty getting compensation. If you suffer any loss on the last day of your holiday then you can report the crime to the police at the airport police station, thus saving you time.
If you compare the UK with Spain as a destination, for example, in order to put theft into perspective, the statistics demonstrate that Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in the European Union, according to the European research study shown on the Wikipedia link, below.
When it comes to theft of personal property or pick-pocketing, Spain is a third less than the UK, and when it comes to burglary is, in fact, two thirds less than the UK rate, with an average in Spain of 1% and the UK being 3%.
Should you ever have the misfortune to experience an unfortunate event whilst away, then do try not to let it spoil your holiday, as cash and valuables can easily be replaced by your insurers.