Top 10 Countries with the Highest Rate of Theft & Tips for Theft Prevention   

When traveling abroad, you often want to bring your computer, a camera, cell phone and some nice jewelry for wearing out, but according to international robbery crime statistics, traveling with these valuables can be dangerous and make you more prone to theft.

Tips for Theft PreventionIn a recent survey by Gallup Analytic that looked at theft around the globe, the theft rate in the United States came in at around 17 percent, meaning these respondents were the victims of some sort of robbery—being a mugging (bag-snatching), car theft or theft with threat. According to the Disaster Center’s U.S. crime rates, the amount of thefts in 2013 registered 1,899.4 thefts per 100,000 people.

If you’re talking about car thefts, the car theft capital of the world seems to change every year, with places such as Italy, France, the U.S., and Switzerland all taking top spots in the last decade according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Others on the list include New Zealand, England & Wales, Sweden, Australia and Denmark.

As for theft of more common items like money, credit cards, cameras, cell phones and other electronics, here are the top 10 countries with the highest theft rate per 100,000 inhabitants.

Belgium: While Belgium is considered rather safe when it comes to its low number of violent crimes, it is one of the worst in the world when it comes to theft. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s most recent findings (from 2012), Belgium reported 191,126 robberies that year, a rate of 1,728.1 per 100,000 people. Car theft is quite common in Belgium. The 2013 Crime & Safety Report by the U.S. Department of State, warns that robbers often loiter in transportation hubs like the Metro and train stations to take advantage of disoriented or distracted travelers. 

Spain: Spain is another country that is considered relatively safe for travel, with low crime rates. However, theft is prevalent, with 502,546 reported robberies in 2012, a rate of 1,074.9 per 100,000 people. One common occurrence amongst thieves is that they will pose as plainclothes police, flashing what appears to be a badge with credentials and asking a “victim” for identification while an accomplice takes his or her valuables. Be wary of a non-uniformed officer suspicious.

Mexico: Organized crime is prevalent in Mexico and while theft may be considered small-time for some, many of the crime lords run large operations. Mexico with 746,894 robberies in 2012, a rate of 618 per 100,000 people, has seen an increase in thefts over the last decade. Foreigners seem to be the targets of choice for pickpockets and thieves, who operate in hotel lobbies, restaurants, public transit systems, airports, and other areas frequented by tourists. Credit card numbers, debit cards and cell phones are among the most stolen items.

Costa Rica: The U.S. Department of State released a warning last year naming Costa Rica as a place where theft runs rampant. Petty theft is very common in highly populated and tourist areas which include pickpocketing, mugging and purse snatching. Try not to leave electronics or personal information in your car as vehicle break-ins (especially rental cars) are common. If there’s a safe at the hotel, use it, and try to limit carrying valuables with you. Costa Rica has 25,066 robberies in 2012, a rate of 521.6.1 per 100,000 people.

Brazil: Crime rates overall in Brazil are high with 979,571 reported robberies in 2012, a rate of 493.1 per 100,000 people. Amongst the cities with the highest crimes include Manaus, Fortaleza and Salvador. In Amazonas in 2012, there were 1038.4 thefts registered for every 100,000 inhabitants. Keep cameras, phones and money close to the vest and never flaunt these items in low-populated places.

Chile: It was only about 9 months ago that thieves took off with $10 million from an armored car in Chile—a record theft in the country. But large attacks like that are only part of the growing problem of theft. The country registered 81.644 robberies in 2012, a rate of 467.6 per 100,000 people—which almost doubled what it had been six years earlier. Vina del Mar/Valparaiso and Pucon/Villarica in the summer are a hotbed for robberies when the streets and establishments are crowded.

Uruguay: The World Bank names Uruguay as one of the worst places for theft—but that factors in a great deal of car theft. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s report show that there were 15,414 robberies in 2012, a rate of 454 per 100,000 people. Violent crime is also on the uptick in the country, so be vigilant and stay in touristy areas.

Rounding out the top 10 of the most reported theft rates around the world are Trinidad and Tobago, with 4,436 robberies in 2012, a rate of 331.7 per 100,000 people; Panama, with 10,038 robberies in 2012, a rate of 264 per 100,000 people; and Honduras with 17,980 robberies in 2012, a rate of 226.6 per 100,000 people.

Tips to Prevent Theft

There are many safeguards you can take to protect yourself from theft. Here’s a list of 10 ways to stay protected.

1. Log your possessions: Before taking off on a trip, take a few moments and jot down a list of the items you’re taking with you—especially jewelry, electronics and anything valuable that might be coming along. Take photos of these items as well, and store both the list and images on your computer, phone and/or cloud, so if something goes missing, you have a record of it and can prove you had the item in the first place.

2. Bring a backup credit card: If you do fall victim to a thief or lose your credit card, having a second one will allow you to continue with your trip and pay for hotels and other travel-related expenses. Just be sure not to keep it in the same place as your other one, or you might lose both together.

3. Separate your money: Just as you don’t want to keep both credit cards in one place, keeping all your money in your wallet or purse is also a bad idea. Hide some money in your luggage and divide money in different pockets so that if some goes missing, you will also have cash to fall back on.

4. Use ATMs wisely: While it might be smart not to carry a lot of cash on you and only take out money when needed, ATMs are a breeding ground for thieves, so be sure that you protect yourself whenever you go and get cash. Try to go with someone, who can watch the people around you as you enter your info. When you take your money out, try to hide what pocket you put it in, mixing up your hands. Finally, if you notice someone following you, head inside the nearest public space.

5. Backup photo documents: In today’s technological world, it’s easy to scan your documents (license, passport, visa) or take photos and keep them stored on your laptop or phone. This is a great safeguard in case someone takes off with your originals. Be sure to store them in a safe cloud as well, so you can view them whenever you need.

6. Use the hotel safe: You might think your valuables are better off with you, but if you’re not going to be wearing that jewelry or you won’t have need for your passport until your flight, store them away in the hotel’s safe. This will provide much better protection than anything you have in the room, and hotels are almost always insured.

7. Walk against traffic: When people think of having a wallet or phone lifted, they envision a pickpocket knocking into them, but there’s just as much chance of theft from someone riding a motorbike and snagging it out of your hands. By walking against traffic, you can see who’s heading in your direction and keep these “muggers on wheels” away.

8. Review your purchases: It is helpful to check in on your credit card statement and see the purchases happening each day via your computer or by calling the number on the back of your card. If you find that there are charges you haven’t made, cancel the card and use your backup. One problem with using the computer is the connection could be compromised, so try to only do so from a credible hotel.

9.  Record important financial information and phone numbers: Keep a list of your credit card numbers, bank account numbers and any important phone numbers separate from the rest of your stuff—and out of sight from anyone who might be snooping around your possessions. This way, if anything is stolen, you won’t panic over not knowing what you need to know to fix the problem quickly.

10. Tell people where you’re going: It’s always a smart decision to let a friend or family member know where you’ve landed, so if something were to happen, they could help. Posting photos on Facebook or Instagram will also let people know where you’re at, and keep people in the loop of your travels. 

A great way to put the worry behind you is with a global expat insurance policy that covers theft when you travel overseas. Clements offers International Property Insurance, which provides full replacement cost of your valuables while traveling, inside your home abroad, or during a move. 

Learn More about International Property Insurance