5 Ways to Keep Your Passport Safe

Photo (cc) by monocletophat123

This post comes from Adam Levin at partner site Credit.com.

If you’ve had to go get a new passport lately, you have learned (like me) it’s no longer the easiest thing to prove that you’re you.

If you’re a first-timer, you must show up in person with a birth certificate, at least one government-issued ID (two if it’s out of state), photocopies, forms and fees, and then wait your turn.

If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, you’ve got to show up at an embassy or consulate with many of those forms in hand.

Worse yet, as highlighted by the recent news that two stolen passports were used by passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, your passport might well have as much, if not more, value to criminals here and abroad precisely because they are so difficult to obtain and increasingly hard to counterfeit.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Interpol has 40 million lost or stolen passports in its database already (but that passengers boarded planes 1 billion times in 2013 without their passports being checked against that database).

So what can you do to keep your passport safe both before and after you travel?

1. Never just drop it in the mail

If you have to renew your passport, you must submit your current passport to allow the State Department to cancel it. But while it’s tempting to simply stick a couple stamps on it and throw it in the closest mailbox, don’t!

Send it via registered mail with a return receipt requested so that the U.S. Postal Service keeps a better eye on it and you know that it arrived – because if it goes walkabout, you have to start from scratch.

2. Don’t take it with you if you don’t have to

If you have another form of government-issued ID, there’s no reason to be carrying around a passport (and, if you don’t, all states issue low-cost non-driver ID cards, which are worth getting for exactly this reason).

Purses get stolen, wallets get lifted and IDs get left behind so often that it’s worth a wait in line at the DMV for an alternate ID.

3. Store it safely

Though it’s tempting, don’t store your passport in your underwear drawer, your desktop organizer or your jewelry box – all places that are a first look for any would-be burglar or identity thief.

Store it someplace others won’t think to look or can’t easily remove – like a safe. Your ID is precious. Treat it that way.

4. Keep a photocopy

If you lose your passport abroad, you will need a photocopy (or a scanned copy) of the original in order to make your way home. Store the copy like you would the original: in a safe, guarded place that you can access and others can’t.

If you’re working with an electronic copy, make sure it’s an encrypted file or on an encrypted drive.

5. Report its loss immediately

If you suspect your passport is stolen or lost, particularly if you’re already abroad, don’t take an extra day to retrace your steps. Report it immediately. The worst thing you can do is wait and hope it shows up – only to discover that whoever made off with it also headed out of town on it.

It has become so commonplace for people to misplace credit cards and driver’s licenses (or have them stolen) that companies and even states have made them reasonably easy to cancel and replace.

But when it comes to super IDs like passports, birth certificates and even Social Security cards, the processes are long and arduous because they establish who you are as best as the governments can – and because they want you to take extra care not to lose them in the first place.

Losing a super ID like a passport can make you vulnerable to identity theft. It’s important after losing an ID like this that you closely monitor your bank accounts and credit to make sure you don’t become a victim. You can monitor your credit for free using the Credit Report Card, a free tool offered by my company that updates two of your credit scores every month.

Any major, unexpected changes in your scores could signal identity theft and you should pull free copies of your credit reports to make sure your identity is safe.

More on Credit.com:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Most Popular
New Retirement Bill Would Help Savers of All Ages
New Retirement Bill Would Help Savers of All Ages

With bipartisan support, this bill could help millions of workers and retirees boost or conserve their retirement savings.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

3 Colors That Can Ruin Your Car’s Resale Value
3 Colors That Can Ruin Your Car’s Resale Value

Select the wrong color for your next car, and it could depreciate twice as fast as others.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

9 of the Best Things to Do When You Retire
9 of the Best Things to Do When You Retire

You’ve waited all your life for this moment. Make the most of your retirement.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.