March 30, 2004

Hiding In Plain Sight

In the wild, animals use tricks to survive. Camouflage allows critters to hide in plain sight. Secreting a chemical that makes an animal taste bad discourages predation. Even just looking like you taste bad can get you a reprieve from the food chain.

Anti-theft (aka. “loss prevention”) can benefit from the same concepts. One particular item from the Shomer-Tec catalog caught my eye. It’s a hiding place for money
cleverly disguised as soiled underwear.

When I travel, I use a slightly more conventional method for keeping my money and passport safe. But the skid-mark safe definitely has its advantages.

Among them, imagine what will happen if criminals get wise to this? Suddenly you’ll have crooks sifting through actual soiled laundry looking for loose cash. Anti-theft tech will have to raise the bar. Perhaps a safe that looks like a half-eaten moldy tuna salad sandwich. Tiny coin purses shaped like used condoms. Fake vomit you can pour over your important legal documents to protect them from the prying eyes and pilfering fingers of villains.

While snooping around with Google I came across “A SAFE TRIP ABROAD” — the State Department’s guide to staying safe in other countries. It’s a useful document, but among its lighter moments are:

  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
  • Avoid scam artists.

With the first two I have to think they’re running counter to the time-honored traditions of the Ugly American. That third recommendation is a good one to keep in mind wherever you are. I’ll be sure to ask everyone I encounter “are you a scam artist?”

Posted by James at March 30, 2004 2:15 PM
Create Social Bookmark Links

I can't believe they left out that one should be careful not to dress in such a way as to be identified as American. This has been a standard travel tip for years! As Americans have been targets in certain countries in the past and are once again high on the kill/take hostage list, this is important.

To this end, one should avoid wearing clothing or jewelry (e.g. pins or buttons) that would identify one as American.

Long Island University posted this for their students who are studying abroad (

Avoid behavior or clothing that may identify you as an American. Some important tips for "blending in" to the local culture include:

Be aware that some items of clothing identify your nationality (e.g., backwards baseball caps, college sweatshirts).

And from the Denver Business Journal:

Avoid wearing clothing that will identify you as an American, such as logo clothing; it's best to dress conservatively so that you don't attract attention.

Even the Girl Scouts caution their members:

Avoid the wearing of clothing, pins, logos, buttons, etc. that identify the group as Americans while traveling abroad. (Uniforms can be taken to wear at special Girl Scout/Girl Guide gatherings and ceremonies.)

This is not about denying one is American, this is about being safe. Don't tempt people by being "in your face."

Posted by: Patti M. at March 31, 2004 1:02 PM

I like to dress as a Canadian.

Not just when I'm on travel, either.

Uh-oh. I've said too much.

Posted by: James at March 31, 2004 1:09 PM

Do you sport a toque?

Posted by: Patti M. at March 31, 2004 1:37 PM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved