I Was Robbed In Mexico: Here’s What You Can Learn From My Mistakes
Do as I say, not as I do.
For many, Puerto Peñasco, a Mexican beach town a few hours south of Tucson, is a popular spot for frolicking in the ocean, sunbathing and enjoying authentic tacos for a weekend getaway. My trip last May didn’t go that way – I was scammed and robbed, with no way to contact my family.
The first night went well. I took my dogs to the beach, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and returned to my Airbnb. The next afternoon things took a major turn when my car got stuck in a sand filled pothole near the beach. Before I knew it, three men were helping me. Although they pulled my car out of the sand, one of them stole my phone, crashed my car into a taxi and drove off. Suddenly, I had no way of communicating with my family, who I knew would be extremely worried if I remained silent in a foreign country.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Although I am a seasoned traveler, I made several rookie mistakes that made it worse, including panicking. As COVID travel restrictions begin to ease and travelers begin to venture out into the world, it’s important to reacquaint ourselves with a few simple rules for staying safe abroad. Here are some tips I learned the hard way.
Trust your instincts: if something seems fishy, it probably is
Just because someone poses as a Good Samaritan doesn’t mean their intentions are pure. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t find it strange that a man showed up with a shovel to help me dig up my car. I figured that happened quite often and he was just trying to make a living off of tips.
Continue reading the article after our video
Recommended Fodor Video
When one of the men jumped into my car as he tried to free my tire, I didn’t like it, but I didn’t mean to be rude to an “assistant”. Worried that this might turn into car theft pretty quickly, I said quietly, “I think I should be the one in my driver’s seat.” Of course he disagreed, but I didn’t want to offend him by insinuating he was a thief.
According to Health Line, if you need to make a quick decision about a situation, it may indicate that now is a good time to listen to your instincts. I should have listened to my instincts and insisted on being the one in the driver’s seat of my car.
The biggest mistake I made in this situation was panicking. I had purchased a Mexican car insurance package prior to my trip which would have covered the cost of freeing my car from the sand trap. If I had taken a moment to breathe, analyze the situation, and weigh my options, I could have called the company and got certified help for free. Some things you can do to calm yourself down immediately In a stressful situation, you can put your palms together for 10 seconds, close your eyes, take a few conscious sighs, and hug for 10 seconds.
Know important passwords and phone numbers
I was caught off guard when my phone was stolen and quickly realized my entire identity was tied to this little device. My first instinct was to call my mother to let her know what had happened and that I was fine. Even if I didn’t have my cell phone, I could borrow someone else’s, right? Fake. As a millennial, I didn’t really know my mom’s cell phone number. It was just “Mom” on my phone.
So what? I could contact her by email or Facebook, right? No. I couldn’t remember my recently changed and very complicated Gmail password. I knew my Facebook password but couldn’t log in to an unknown device. Thanks to authentication, designed to protect us from hackers, I was also unable to reset my Gmail password.
Although I am a seasoned traveler, I made several rookie mistakes that made it worse, including panicking.
In the end, my Airbnb host logged into her Facebook account and I video chatted with my mother from there, but she later informed me that the situation seemed so strange to her that she had fear that I have been kidnapped.
the US State Department suggests that travelers make two copies of all travel documents such as passports when traveling abroad. One copy should be left with family or a trusted friend and the other should stay with you. At a time when so much of our existence is tied to our phones, you might consider doing the same with a few important passwords and phone numbers (or at least do a vacation pre-check to make sure you memorized them). If I had just known some of my passwords and phone numbers, it could have saved me a lot of trouble.
Make it harder for thieves to access your information
Believe it or not, I actually did a few things right: I activated a passcode on my phone and immediately reported the theft to my carrier. The Sprint customer service representative assured me that because I had reported the phone as stolen, it would not work, even if a new SIM card was inserted. This means that even if the thief had managed to get past my password, he couldn’t use the phone and probably couldn’t sell it for much. It’s the only thing that made me feel a little smug. I just imagined a frustrated thief trying – and failing – to access my information.
Conclusion: there is no such thing as over-preparation
For those of us who have put in a lot of miles, the planning can get sloppy. Remember, no matter how seasoned a traveler you are, you can’t always avoid disaster. It is better to be prepared for the worst than to allow yourself to become a victim because of poor preparation.