Robbed on Vacation

The news is stunning: Fifty-five passengers, according to preliminary reports, robbed at gunpoint while enjoying a sponsored excursion from their cruise in St. Lucia.  Witnesses tell of masked gunmen, money and jewelry taken, and a possible injury to one passenger who may have fallen and broken her leg in the course of the events.  The cruise line has reported no injuries, but has confirmed the robberies and the rest of the witness accounts.

Even in the midst of the most diligent preparations for “unforeseen events” during your vacation, chances are, you’d never envision falling victim to a crime such as this one.  Shore excursions, particularly the type these passengers were engaged in — sightseeing at the botanical gardens! — are generally regarded as safe, convenient ways to maximize the enjoyment of a cruise.  Yes, everyone knows that the advice is to be aware of your surroundings while on shore, and to take safety precautions to avoid getting lost, being pickpocketed, or becoming injured in a needless accident.  But “watch out for masked men robbing your entire tour group at gunpoint in St. Lucia” isn’t usually on the list of warnings for travelers.

Fortunately, for those victimized passengers who had the benefit of travel insurance, there is some assistance that can be offered to them by their insurance providers.  There are a few key areas of help and recovery that can be addressed by travel insurance:

  1. Reimbursement for stolen items.  Most travel insurance policies include some coverage for loss or damage to your property while traveling.  Victims of theft who have this type of coverage can file a claim with their insurance company to help offset the costs of replacing stolen items.  Before filing a claim, however, it’s important to check the coverage limits on your travel insurance policy, as well as the benefits offered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.   Often, homeowner’s insurance will offer coverage for big-ticket items like jewelry that may exceed the limits of a travel insurance policy, while travel insurance can take care of the reimbursement for additional smaller items that a homeowner’s policy will not cover.  Make sure that in any case, you are able to provide a police report verifying the incident, as well as any proof you may have that documents what items you were traveling with at the time the crime occurred.  The more documentation you are able to provide, the easier it is for an insurance company to process your claim.
  2. Replacement of stolen documents.  If any personal documents or identification are involved in the theft, an immediate call to the 24/7 assistance hotline offered through your travel insurance provider can help in starting the process of replacing them.  Often, the assistance will include acting as a liaison on your behalf to handle many of the stressful details of reporting the theft and submitting the necessary paperwork to get replacements.  Additionally, if your credit cards were among the items stolen, your travel insurance provider may be able to help you in contacting the companies to cancel them and get the cards re-issued.  Before calling the assistance line, be sure to check the terms of your specific plan to see which of these assistance services are included in the benefits available to you.
  3. Identity theft mitigation. Adding insult to injury, being robbed while on vacation can leave you more vulnerable to identity theft.  In addition to helping with the process of cancelling stolen credit cards and replacing stolen documents, some travel insurance providers offer specialized benefits to help minimize the damage of possible identity theft.  Identity theft coverage typically includes services such as credit monitoring, assistance in reporting to all the necessary authorities, and continued attention to the resolution of any problems and the restoration of your reputation for a defined period of time after the theft occurs.

Our thoughts are with the victims of this dreadful crime, and we are relieved to know that there were no serious injuries or fatalities.  We hope that there is a swift resolution for each of them in recovering or replacing their stolen belongings and in controlling the damage of these horrible events.

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One thought on “Robbed on Vacation

  1. Traveling in a group – instead of alone – may feel safer but gangs often target groups. Yet there are some steps a traveler can take to protect him/herself.
    Wear a money pouch. Available at most travel stores and online, these are worn under clothing out of reach of pickpockets and can hold a passport, credit and debit cards, travelers’ checks and extra cash (keep a few bills in your pocket, though). Pickpockets lurk everywhere including in US and European cities.
    Men can wear a money belt which is two ply with zippered access. Contact information and even a travelers’ check can be stuffed inside and assuming you are not robbed of your trousers (a possibility in very poor countries!) it can offer a life-line if everything else is gone.
    Carry credit card contact information, the phone numbers of your travel insurance carrier and for the US embassy and consulate in the country you’ll be visiting should you have to report a robbery. Also a copy in your suitcase and email the information to yourself to be accessed on any computer.

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