When you’re new, you stick out. When you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings, it shows. Far too often we learn about colleagues, friends and family falling victim to a crime. In many cases, we find that the incident could have been prevented. We have also found, unfortunately, that many victims of crime have no recollection or description of the assailant. Why? One of the most common reasons is that the victim is oblivious to their surroundings and presented as “an easy mark.”

In most cases, individuals with the intent to commit a crime will tell you they look for an “easy mark”. An “easy mark” describes someone who appears vulnerable, lost and confused, or is simply not paying attention to their surroundings.

The Newest Phenomenon: Walking While on Mobile Device

I’m sure you’ve seen it a 100 times a day. People walking around the city with their heads down, buried in their smart phones, oblivious to what is happening around them. Pedestrians on busy city streets, texting, reading, watching videos, answering emails, making calls, everything but paying attention to their surroundings.

How to Safely Use Uber and Lyft: Use the Safety Features of the App

To stay safe while using the various popular ride share programs, riders need to take advantage of the apps’ many features. A great safety feature in many of these apps is called “Share Your ETA.”

Once your ride has been confirmed and the driver is on their way, you can actually input your destination into the app and share that information with anyone via text message.

Family and friends can even watch your journey in real-time from a map on their smart phone, using the “Share Your ETA” app.

After booking and confirming your ride, the app also sends riders a photo of their driver, their license plate number and a description of the vehicle. This way you know exactly who to look for. This feature is beneficial in crowded places such as train stations, airports, concerts, sporting events and so on.

There is also real-time tracking for these ride-share services. Since both the driver and rider have an account with personal information, both parties have a real sense of security.

Use common sense; riders should never get into a car they didn’t order. Ride-share companies would have no record of who picked you up, your destination or the driver’s personal information.

Closely monitor your Uber and Lyft accounts. Make sure you’re not charged cancellation fees when a driver cancels your pick up or states they couldn’t locate you at the designated pick-up location. This fee happens far more often than riders think, and can easily be challenged and reimbursed when it occurs. Pay close attention to your account and monitor all fees and charges.

6 Additional Quick Security Tips for Tourists, Commuters and Business Travelers

  1. Proceed with a sense of purpose. Walking around a big city looking lost and confused can be a dead giveaway to malicious actors. So can leaving bags and personal items lying around while taking photos or flashing large amounts of cash while making purchases in public places. When using ATMs, try to use machines in well-lit, secure locations. Be aware of individuals around you when entering and exiting ATM locations. And always walk with purpose.
  2. Be conscious of your surroundings. Put your smartphone away! Lift your head up while walking and look around your environment! Be alert and aware of people, places and things in your general area. Try to notice if someone has noticed you. You’ll never know if someone is following you, positioning themselves uncomfortably close to you or lying in wait for you, if you don’t take your eyes off your mobile device and look around. Crossing the street while your head is buried in your smartphone is just as dangerous as getting robbed for your valuables. In many cases, you can avoid putting your safety at risk just by being alert and aware of your surroundings.
  3. Walk in groups or pairs and stay in well-lit areas. There is safety in numbers. When walking in a large city, especially in the evening, overnight and early morning hours where there is minimal activity on the streets, try not to walk alone. Buddy up, walk in groups and remain on the beaten path whenever possible. Stay in active, well-lit areas. Make a conscious effort not to walk down dark, deserted and potentially dangerous alleyways, secluded tunnels or similar areas. If something just doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut, and travel in a manner that will get you to your destination safely, even if it means taking a longer more popular route or hopping into a taxi. 
  4. Pre-plan your excursions. Whenever possible, have your travel plans laid out effectively and efficiently. Pre-determine your route. Schedule your furthest visits early in the day, and work your way back toward your hotel as the afternoon turns to evening. Consult travel alerts and crime stats for areas you may intend to visit, and keep an eye on local news reports. If you’re using public transportation to make your way around town, be sure to have updated rail and bus schedules. In many cities, train and bus schedules differ from weekdays to weekends. The last thing you want to do is be stuck somewhere unfamiliar after the trains and buses have stopped running for the evening.
  5. Secure your valuables. Big cities are known for crowded sidewalks, subways, shopping malls, restaurants and bars, among other attractions. Keep your valuables properly secured on your person. Don’t hang your purse on the restaurant chair behind you or leave it on the floor. Leave it on your lap or strapped over your shoulder in front of you so you maintain visual control over your purse and its contents. Keep your wallet in a front pocket versus a back pocket or inside a jacket or blazer pocket. In many cases when you get hot, you may take the jacket or blazer off and leave it on a chair with your wallet susceptible to theft. If your wallet is in your rear pocket, you may fall victim to a professional pickpocket. We see too many smart phones left on tables, bar counters, open purses and jacket pockets. These scenarios are very enticing and some will attempt to steal your personal items. There is a market for these very expensive smart phones swiped second-hand. Keeping your valuables out of sight and properly secured on your person is the best way to avoid becoming a victim of petty theft.
  6. If someone knows where you are, someone knows where you are not. We strongly suggest watching what you post on social media. Don’t broadcast the fact that you’re going on vacation – and when or where you’re going. Also, save the posting of your vacation photos for when you return home. We know how some people love to give real-time, hour-by-hour, play-by-play, meal-by-meal updates of their vacation photos. Some of our friends and family also geo-tag their photos, giving specifics of their time and location.

Whether you are a tourist, commuter or business traveler, remaining alert and vigilant will prevent you from becoming a crime statistic.