You have read them in the news or perhaps an episode on Nat Geo’s “Locked Up Abroad” series. Drug smuggling using humans and even animals known as drug mules are now carefully watched by anti-drug authorities around the globe. While some confessed being threatened to do the act or lured because of the money, some tourists were blindsided and unknowingly transported drugs. With penalties from years of imprisonment to execution, to be a blind and innocent drug mule is a total nightmare for any tourist or traveler.
Who are their targets?
Drug syndicates are attracted to travelers who seem “vulnerable”. These include elders, minors, young women and even pregnant tourists. Though some men are tempted to become dug mules, most innocent drug mules are composed of these travelers. Travelers who seem to have a routine like those business travelers can also become drug couriers as smugglers will study your schedule and can just slip those drugs in your belongings without your knowledge.
What are the signs?
“Pick up a package”. If you hear this phrase, then be alert. It can be from an acquaintance or from someone you met while traveling. Some form a relationship with a smuggler (without their knowldege) and then asked to travel to a country to pick up a package. Some are also offered a good job and then asked to deliver or pick up some “supplies” or “samples”.
“All expenses paid”. Who doesn’t want to travel for work? Or travel for free? When you are recruited for an overseas job, stressing how simple the job is and all things covered from hotel to food with a very big fee for your “service”, then be extra cautious.
“Please help me with this baggage”. Sometimes, smugglers sense that they will be caught, so the best thing to escape the authorities is to transfer the drugs to another passengers. When someone in the airport or pier asked a little favor to carry their boxes, do not accept right away. Ask what is inside or if you really sense something is not right, let the person open the box. You can also decline and just say no.
What can you do?
For frequent travelers like business travelers, change your routine. Criminals may be studying every move you make from the time of arrival to the hotel you always stay. You can also change your bags including laptop bags – some would have a duplicate bag with drugs and then switch it.
Be careful with whom you mingle with when you are traveling. This is very true among young travelers. You might not know that while you are sleeping in a cheap hotel room, the smuggler already placed the drugs in your luggage. Some will be invited to visit another country, for free! As much as it sounds so good, there are many cheap hotel sites that you can get travel deals. Do not fall to this type of betrayal.
Even road trippers can be victims, they can put the drugs in your trunks with a replicated keys. Change your routine and be careful when parking them.
Be critical when accepting travel jobs. If it is too good to be true, do not accept.
If you sense that that there is drugs in your possession, keep calm. They may still be watching you. Be calm and contact your respective embassy or consulate. Follow their instructions as they coordinate with the local authorities for your safe transport in getting out of the country and eventually in going back home.