Is your passport at risk on holiday? Five shocking scams

How can you protect yourself?

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued a warning that criminals may be targeting your passport when you're on holiday. Over 21,000 British passports are lost or stolen every year, and the FCO has revealed some of the most common scams thieves use.

It has issued a video demonstrating common hustles. The first is The Imposter: here James Freedman, a fraud and crime expert, introduces himself to holidaymakers as a police officer. He requests some form of identification, they hand over their passport, and he tells them he just needs to pop off and see a colleague - never to return.

Second is The Clean Up. In this hustle, Freedman spills something on a tourist's jacket, and then offers to clean it off. While he's doing so - he reaches into his pocket and takes his passport.

The Check-In Cheat lurks by hotel reception, and if you put your passport on the reception desk - or the hotel employee leaves it there, thieves can distract you, then just reach in and take your passport.

Taking Things Easy involves someone sitting down behind your chair when you have left your jacket hanging over the back of it. They also hang their jacket on their chair, so when they look like they are reaching into their own jacket pocket, they are actually reaching into yours - and taking your passport.

The FCO also warns that criminals know that they will often find passports left in hire cars. It means they will target these cars in car parks and parked on the street, break in, and ransack the car for passports. If you hire a car, therefore, it's essential you take your passport with you when you park up.

What can you do?

Tobias Ellwood MP, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, said: "While we should all enjoy our holidays, it is important that we remain vigilant about valuables – particularly passports. Becoming a victim of theft or losing your passport could ruin your trip and replacing a passport will cost money and valuable holiday time."

The FCO is urging people to take precautions. Before you go, it suggests making two copies of your passport. You should leave one copy with a family member or a friend, and take the other with you. Where permitted, use your photocopy as alternative ID, for example when going out at night. You can also store a copy electronically, so you can access it when you're away if you need to.

If you have a safe in your hotel, lock your passport in it when you go out. If you have to keep it with you, make sure it is kept in a zipped pocket or bag held firmly across your body - and well out of sight.

The FCO also recommends staying alert to your surroundings, and being wary of strangers who take an unusual amount of interest in you.

Freedman adds: "Remember that if you put bags down, they should always be in your line of sight. Above all, trust your instincts and be aware of anyone invading your personal space."

Even taking sensible precautions will not protect you against every eventuality. If you are unlucky enough to become a victim of thieves, it's important to report the theft of your passport to the police. You will then need to visit the local Consulate or Embassy so you can be issued with the emergency travel documents you need in order to get home.

Unfortunately these come at a price, and the FCO estimates that the cost of travel documents and new passports for two adults would pay for two more nights in a hotel on holiday - so it's well worth doing everything possible to keep your passport safe.

Victims of scams and fraud

Victims of scams and fraud