Denying risk doesn’t help Americans stay safe when traveling internationally, according to a former CIA agent.
Wesley Odom, a 15-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Services, said travel safety is everyone’s “personal responsibility” and offered several common-sense tips to a group of Morgan Stanley clients at Glenmoor Country Club in March.
Mike Rosser, the head of CCIG’s Private Client practice, teamed up with Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and Morgan Stanley to bring Odom’s international security presentation to the wealth management clients.
The event brought Odom’s safety message full circle, following earlier CCIG-Chubb presentations with wealth advisors from around metro Denver.
“Denying you are at risk is not a defense. There is risk involved when traveling internationally,” Odom said. “You can’t eliminate that risk, so what we’re talking about is risk management.”
Generally, Odom said to avoid places that attract large crowds when traveling in areas at high risk for terrorism, dress down and stay at lesser-known hotel when possible.
Odom noted that Westerners are being targeted more frequently by Islamic Jihadists, such as the attack in Paris, and most recently, Brussels.
“I don’t want to discourage you from traveling, because you can’t eliminate Islamic extremism,” he said. “But if I could make you invisible when you travel, that’s what I’d do.”
Pickpockets and muggers are the biggest threats to international travelers, Odom said, and “anonymity” is the greatest protection you can give yourself when traveling.
“Dress down when you leave your hotel, walk with purpose and don’t stop to talk to strangers,” he said. “Bad guys can’t work you unless they can slow you down.”
He urged international travelers to do their homework before they travel, educating themselves about areas at high risk for crime.
Odom’s other tips for international travelers:
• Protect your passport. A U.S. passport is valuable to the “bad guys.” Leave it in a safe deposit box or carry it in a place not easily accessible to muggers or grab artists. Also, make copies of your passport and carry them separately from your passport, to facilitate replacement if necessary.
• Avoid wandering into unfamiliar areas, both during the day and especially at night.
• Insist that all the locks on your hotel room door work properly.
• Never open your room door to someone you don’t know.
• Research the safety of taxis in the country you are visiting before you use them.
• Rent cars only if you are really familiar with the terrain and make sure they are covered by your insurance.
• Use concealment belts or other undercover neck or leg wallets to protect your money and credit cards.