Jun 10, 2012

Getting robbed in Canada, What I Learned & Advice

Some background info:
16 yr old New Yorker, attending family business in Vancouver over the Memorial Day weekend. (To sum it up, we got robbed, they stole our passports, and due to holiday/communication problems we were stranded in Canada for 3 days) and as I write this, I'm regretting it cuz I feel frustrated all over again.

What happened:
Around 4pm, my family and I parked our car in the underground parking lot (14D yellow area) of Metrotown mall in Burnaby. We came back at 6pm, opened our trunk and our most valuable possessions were gone. 3 cameras, pictures we will never get back, 1 iPod, 1 netbook, passports, A LOT of USD, credit cards and a lot of legal papers. Total monetary value adds up to $5,000. Not only did we lose so much money, but more importantly, our identity was stolen. DOB, address, email, passwords, bank accounts, social security number which is on your passport, credit cards which is linked to a business, driver license. You name it. You could use that to create more credit cards, take loans, sell information, create fake identities, etc.

What we did right after:
1) Obviously we were in shock.
2) Immediately went to the mall service center, called security, reported the robbery. They tried to look at security camera footage but we were parked in an area with none. (Part of the fact was because we like to park in areas where no cars are around so it doesn't get damaged. and the mall is HUGE it's one of those supermalls)
3) Called the police. They told us to go to the police station on Deer Park Drive
4) Arrived, reported the robbery. BUT they could not file the report without passports since we are out of the country. and we didnt have them because they were stolen! so they told us to go to the US Consulate in Downtown Vancouver
5) Next morning, went to US Consulate. Its Memorial Day (Monday) so it wasnt open.
6) Called multiple times to their emergency number. They said come in the next morning
7) The next morning (Tuesday), we waited about 1 hour, went through security, checked in our phones (the only valuables we had left, and also you weren't allowed to bring them up there) and when we got up there (it was a tall building) they gave us papers to fill out to make a temporary passport
8) After waiting and waiting, we finally got them. BUT they wouldn't give us our old passport numbers, and so the Vancouver police wouldn't file a report -_-

9) By this time, we were at the police station, so we had to use our phones to call them and explain why we needed the passport numbers for the 3rd time! and FINALLY they came through
10) With proof that we went to the police, and got temporary passports, we went to the Delta counter at the airport. By this time, it Wednesday. And we had already cancelled our previous flight back. We just needed to rebook our flight, and have them waive the fee (with the proof that we lost our passports and went to the police.) The Delta counter was closed. -_- who closes their god damn counter at 4pm!?
11) 4am the next day, (Thursday) we went to the Delta counter and FINALLY we had a way to get back to NY!

Things I learned/Experienced:
1) On our way back, they pulled us aside and did "random" screenings on us. uh-huh >.> yeah right, (since we filed the police report, our ID should be on red alert) so "random"= your name is suspicious, we have to screen you. (this also happened on my there! someone pulled me aside. there must be some bad association thing with my last name huh)
***2) ALWAYS ALWAYS keep passports, a few bucks, passports and a spare credit card on your body! NOT IN YOUR BAG/BACKPACK! You should NEVER bring more than 400 cash in my opinion, assuming you are traveling to a 1st world country, there is no need. ATMs are everywhere. Also, bring 1 or 2 credit cards. Keep one handy (a deep pocket) so that you can actually pay stuff without rummaging through where you are keeping your valuables so that thieves can see. For girls: stuff passports/emergency money/credit cards in your bra!!!!!!!!!! I cannot stress enough! HOWEVER, it must be a bra that will actually hold things in it, like a sports bra or shelf bra kinda thing... Guys: buy a money belt? 
3) Keep your camera safe! If it gets stolen, those are pictures you will never get back!
4) Have a 'fake' bag. In other words, keep your valuables mentioned in #2 on your body, underneath your clothes, and carry a bag on the outside of your body that carries things like water, umbrella, food, sunscreen, lotion, makeup. things you can replace.
5) Carry pepper spray? you never know with those pickpocketers. but Im not sure if your allowed to fly with that, but Im sure if you backpack Europe, you can find it in a drugstore and travel by train.
6) You can also lose your luggage whether its through luggage claim or the hotel or the train station, thieves are everywhere! So don't bring valuables, they are probably more safe at home.
7) Have back-ups of back-ups! So the information you have on your computer? Regularly update it onto a flashdrive (or even 2 flashdrives) and keep it in a secure place. Although, I strongly reccommend you do not travel with a laptop anyways.
***8) Photocopy your passports, driver licenses, serial numbers on electronics!!!!!! And keep those in a secure location! I cannot stress enough how important this one is! If you lose these things, it will save you a heck of a lot of time in reporting it to the police, and make their job easier to help you alert the credit unions/ identity fraud units. Also, for electronics, with the serial number, you can try to track your stuff (especially if it has sensitive information on it)!
9) Learn self defense? It will certainly come in handy if you get physical.
10) Be smart, just don't do anything stupid like I did (aka don't scream "rich foreigner") Use common sense and stay aware of your surrounds! Don't get caught up in the moment and forget about safety.

Although this was a very big mess to clean up, and I'm sure this isn't the end of it, I have certainly learned a lot from this experience. If you are reading this, be smart, don't make the same mistake I did. And if you think this scares me away from traveling, think again! I still love to travel, just don't be stupid.
x Jenn


Bumbleberri said...

Oh my gosh... that is so frustrating! I would be creeped out that someone stole my identification and the consequences.
Your advice is good! Prevention is def key. I'm sure they could be of use when I'm out and about traveling and such. Thankss :)

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Jenn said...

Your welcome :) stay safe!