By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner
Just ten days ago, my wife and I returned from a trip outside the U.S. where our lodging included a Marriott. When we read about their data breach, we were concerned. The data breach included passport numbers.
If you traveled outside the U.S., you know how important it is to safeguard your passport. US passports are a target of thieves and pickpockets and can be sold for over $2,000. A British or EU passport is worth even more – over $3,000. Most passport pictures do not look like the holder and can be used by criminals or terrorists. How many of you look the same as your passport photo? Mine is nine years old.
Every hotel or condo where we stayed wanted a copy of our passport. Except when traveling, we kept a color scanned picture of our passport with us at all times. The actual passport was secured in the room safe (along with most of our cash).
If you were a victim of the Marriott Data Breach and you want to report your passport number compromised, you may decide to report the incident. Once your passport has been reported lost or stolen it is invalid and cannot be used again. You will need to apply for a new passport by filling out Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport. That may take a month. Sometimes two months. If you use an "identity monitoring service" (I highly recommend them), notify the service.
Passports numbers can be used in conjunction with other pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) to commit criminal identity theft.
If your passport number was stolen in a data breach, but you still have your passport in your possession, there is no way to flag your passport to alert authorities. You can contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 or email them at NPIC@state.gov for more information about the steps that can be taken if you are concerned your passport number may be used by someone other than you.
If your passport is stolen, here are the steps you should take:
1. Call the State Department’s office with any questions at 1-877-487-2778. If you are outside the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They can help you with the documents necessary for you to exit the country you are visiting and to enter the U. S. You will need to visit them in person.
2. File a police report. A crime has taken place and should be reported to the local police. This will help you prove that it was stolen.
3. You will need to fill out Form DS-64: Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport. This is incredibly important to do as soon as possible after the discovery of theft or loss in order to avoid the use of your passport for illegal activities.
4. You will need new passport photos, some type of identification (driver's license), airline tickets, and evidence of US citizenship. Also, your application for a passport and statement regarding your lost or stolen passport.
If you are out of the U.S., it certainly will dampen your vacation.