It is important to remember that crime can occur anywhere at any time, even while on campus. There are strategies to reduce a traveler’s susceptibility to becoming a victim of crime, but no precautions can prevent all crime.

Travel Advisories & Advisory Reports

While crime can occur anywhere, there are locations that experience more or less crime than other areas. We encourage travelers to review the U.S. Department of State Travel Travel Advisory for their destination country or countries to understand potential concerns with crime. Another option to learn more is by reading the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Country Report for each destination country by using the Region Locator search on the right-hand side of the OSAC website.

Many ideas for reducing susceptibility to crime are the same around the world, regardless of location.

  • Trust your instincts. If something seems wrong, ask a local or depart the area (with others in your group, never alone).
  • Travel in a group of at least two people, preferably four or more in case the group needs or decides to separate. Agree to group plans before going out and keep the plan.
  • Walk with a purpose. Make eye contact with people but be cautious of people trying to gain your attention and stop you. Without being overly rude, keep moving.
  • Stay in well-lighted and populated areas. Avoid areas with overgrown bushes or other objects where people can hide. Do not take suspect shortcuts through alleys, side streets, or isolated or unlighted areas.
  • Do not wear or carry expensive jewelry or significant amounts of money. Limit the amount of cash or other valuables that you are carrying; ideally, carry only what you need for that day or excursion.
  • Consider carrying a “fake” wallet with the day’s money (above) in U.S. and local currency to provide in the event of a mugging.
  • Keep your valuables in a bag or close to your body.
  • Maintain awareness of what is happening around you. Use only one ear bud and do not focus on your smart phone or other handheld devices.
  • Increase your level of alertness in large crowds where pickpockets may operate. Carry your bags in front of you.
  • Observe how locals dress and mirror as appropriate. While you may not blend with locals, minimize standing out.
  • If traveling any distance at night, use a taxi. Some restaurants, clubs, and hotels may have a concierge service that will call a taxi for you or provide a number for you to call.
  • If you’re confronted by a thief, the police generally advise not to fight back as the robbers could be armed. Instead, stay calm and hand over that small amount of money that you’ve prepared for this possibility. However, you should read local travel advice to know or understand the risk.

General principles or ideas also apply to staying safe before or while using alcohol. Alcohol use does contribute to some incidents of crime.

  • Before going out, have a plan and follow it. ALWAYS go out and remain in a group.
  • Know your limit and stop before becoming drunk.
  • Never leave your drink(s) unattended.
  • Never accept a drink from a stranger.
  • Do not try to “keep up” with the locals when drinking.
  • Make sure you know what you are being served. Avoid questionable beverages as some homemade or illegal alcohol can be dangerous.

Travelers must also understand various legal considerations while abroad, particularly in regard to committing risky or illegal activities.

  • Remember that you are under the legal jurisdiction of your host country. Every country has differing legal systems and rights for the accused.
  • Infractions that are minor in the United States could be assigned a much higher penalty in another country.
  • Illegal drug and alcohol use could land you in jail.
  • In the event that you are arrested abroad, you should request authorities contact the local U.S. Embassy.
  • Illinois does not provide legal counsel to travelers abroad.

Travelers should arrange to safeguard their cash and credit cards and apply general strategies to reduce the chances of being a victim of crime.

  • Consider how you will access money while abroad. Financial institutions in many countries do not accept traveler’s checks today. If ATMs are present, U.S. credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) will work in many countries, but fraud is always a risk.
  • Before travel, alert your bank and credit card companies that you will be abroad or your accounts may be frozen when the cards are used. You should also inquire regarding exchange rates and fees for using credit cards abroad.
  • If bringing newer U.S. currency, carry the most current “version” of the bills with no markings or discolorations. Bank, currency exchangers, hotels, and other businesses may refuse older or marked bills for fear of counterfeiting.
  • Pay with small bills or credit card whenever possible.
  • Only exchange currency at official locations; unofficial or “black market” transactions are usually illegal and may lead to arrest. Such transactions are also more prone to lead to crime.
  • Try to use ATMS inside a building. Bring a travel companion when using an ATM and keep watch for each other.
  • Shield your hand when entering your PIN at a bank ATM.
  • Check for obvious signs of skimmers being attached to an ATM before use.

Crime related to information technology, particularly identity theft, may occur while abroad. Travelers should take basic steps while abroad to reduce the risk.

  • Shared computers. The chance for password compromise is higher when using shared devices. If using a shared computer (internet café, computer lab, etc.), do not log into secure sites requiring your password (bank, credit card, etc.).
  • Change passwords. If you believe your password has been compromised, immediately change your password. Use different passwords for each account to limit the number of passwords that you will need to change if one is compromised.
  • Use secure networks. When logging into websites that should be secure, ensure that you see httpS:// in the address instead of http://.
  • Pop-up ads and links. Be careful in clicking on pop-ups when using hotel networks. They may be used to download malicious software. If in question, go directly to the software website. Be alert to suspicious e-mails.

As you travel (or even while on campus), you may be the target of a scam. A scam a dishonest attempt to obtain money, information, or something else of value. Scammers are people who will lie and misrepresent themselves as people with authority. Scammers often use intimidation to manipulate individuals into doing what they want.

It is important to educate yourself on the common scenarios and take steps to protect yourself. The ISSS Scam Safety page provides helpful information about common scams and how to safeguard your personal information.