When you were a kid your mother told you not to get into cars with strangers. This advice is still pretty good, particularly in areas when kidnapping is a growth business.
This has been particularly in our minds because of several incidents that have taken place in the last while. One involved a protective team (not ours) in Thailand that escorted the person in their trust into a car that turned out not to be theirs, as they discovered a few minutes later when their car, driven by their driver, arrived.
In Colombia, we once arrived at the airport to discover a driver holding up a placard with our name. We didn’t know the person, so before approaching him we called our office to find out why someone we knew wasn’t there to pick us up, and to get a description of the person sent.
In Buenos Aires and Mexico City, both cities in which one does not prudently get into a taxi these days, it is wise to arrange for a car and driver, and made sure that pictures go back and forth so each party can recognize the other without the need for names being held up for all the world to see.
The bottom line is that while there are many places in the world where it is safe to get into a taxi, there are a lot of places where this is not the case. In these places you should not be getting into cars with people you don’t know.
How do you tell which places are dangerous and which aren’t? If your company has a travel department, or a group that provides protective services for senior management, at least one of these should be subscribing to a service such as that offered by Specialized Consulting Services (http://www.speconsult.com/), which we discussed in our article “We are going where?” in the March 2003 issue of AEGIS. They should therefore be able to give you a very accurate picture of the level and type of threat you are likely to face.
If the level of risk is not sufficiently great as to require an actual protective team, it may be still appropriate to arrange for a known car and driver. If you do this, and are using someone you know and trust, it is better to exchange pictures of the traveler and the driver, so each knows what the other looks like. If that is not practical, you should arrange a name to be put on the placard, and some sort of verbal identification.
While this may seem a little too secret agent-ish, it is still better than being kidnapped, and having to send us to liberate you.