Record Numbers of U.S.Passports Stolen Here

December 12, 2008

With the holidays and tourist season upon us, many of you might have visitors from back home coming to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, a record number of U.S. citizens, both tourists and residents, have their passports lost or stolen in Costa Rica each year. With that, we address the following question:

Q: What should I do if my passport has been lost or stolen?

A: The U.S. Embassy in San José has replaced more lost and stolen passports over the past three years than any other U.S. embassy or consulate in the world. In the past year, nearly 1,500 U.S. citizens have had their passports lost or stolen in Costa Rica. On average, more than four U.S. citizens will have their passports lost or stolen on any given day.

Why are so many U.S. passports stolen in Costa Rica? As far as we know, U.S. passports are not being targeted specifically for theft. Many passports are stolen along with the purses or bags of U.S. citizens, in addition to credit cards, cash and other valuables. The theft of the passport is incidental to the true purpose of the crime, which is to steal money and jewelry. We are, however, concerned that these passports may be used on the black market for stolen travel documents and identity theft.

For this reason, it is especially important that U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen report the theft to the police and the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible.

Some of the most common scams we see are targeted at tourists: stealing bags from overhead compartments or between people’s legs in buses; breaking into cars parked at the edge of the Tárcoles Bridge, on the road to Jacó on the central Pacific coast; grabbing tourists’ bags on the beach while their owners are in the water swimming; or stealing your car while pretending to help you fix a flat tire. To ward off would-be thieves, we always encourage people to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense, just as you would back in the U.S.

In the event you do lose your passport or have it stolen, you’ll need to come to the embassy to apply for a new passport. Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 8 to 11:30 a.m. We are also open Monday afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m. for U.S. citizen services, and you can contact the embassy by e-mail at consularsanjose@state.gov or by

phone at 2519-2000. You should bring two recent color photographs (photos can also be taken in the embassy’s consular section for a small fee), the $100 replacement fee and a copy of the police report, if you have one.

Once you process your application at the embassy, your passport will be ready to pick up within 10 business days. If it is more convenient, you can also have DHL mail you your passport. If you find yourself in an emergency situation in which you must travel within 10 days, it is possible to apply for an emergency passport, which can be processed the same day. Emergency passports are valid for a limited time and should be requested only for true emergency situations.

 

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