How to securely and inexpensively send a credit card or other valuable documents abroad

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sometimes, you need to send someone - or be sent - a valuable document abroad without which you just cannot do, like a credit card for example.
But you cannot risk having the letter/parcel get lost or stolen, so you need a totally secured, guaranteed way to have that delivery made and you start thinking about costly services like FedEx or DHL, which, indeed are... costly services.
As an expatriate I have often had, at least several times, to have credit cards and important documents sent to me via postal services, and, don't get me wrong, I have no personal bias against companies like the ones I have quoted above, and those are great companies providing serious and professional services but they would turn out to be too expensive for me everytime i would need them. So, what did I do then?

Back a few years ago, I decided to google for advice on how to send a credit card the cheap way, meaning still securely, but without having to pay for a minimum of 60/80 euros per document, if not more.
And I sort of found a post written by someone who explained his trick was to hide the valuable good inside some piece of clothes and send it via ordinary postal service. This got me thinking.

How to send a credit card abroad safely
As a well-travelled person, I have often had to cross foreign borders, standing in line for hours with strangers, having immigration officers peering at me to see if there was anything out of the ordinary that popped up in their mind while they were looking at me, studying my behaviour, as they studied everyone else's too.
I had also been temping for a day once, a long time ago at a Royal Mail sorting center and I knew a bit about how foreign parcels were processed, based on what type of county they came from.

So, it all sort of became very logical to me at some point that.... for a credit card to cross oceans and borders without drawing attention and risking getting stolen or anything, everything has to look 'normal', as after all, your letter or package, is going through the customs like you would yourself while on holidays to a foreign country. And for obvious reasons, it goes through a process of human appreciation, plus through some scanning device, like for someone's luggage at the airport. Noone wants to take risks with that there and who could blame them?. Frankly I do not.

So, since you need to send or get sent something for legitimate reasons, there is nothing wrong with using a little imagination and let's say, if we take the example of a credit card, prepare a relatively new cd-rom or dvd-rom from your least preffered artist (you got it as a gift but just did not find the courage to throw it away), attach your card on the inside like the cd-rom manufacturer would attach a valueless promotional card, add a Happy Birthday card beside, and you're done.
Such a method should definitely not draw neither human nor machine attention while your letter/parcel awaits at sorting centers, wherever those centers are and whoever is on duty when that happens.

Of course you need to send it as a registered letter with return receipt and it will cost more, but it will still cost you approximately eight or ten times less than if it had been via specialized/services, and you want to do that because even if somehow it feels that sending it the basic way could draw attention even less, you still want to use some kind of cheap but effective insurance against internal postal theft, which we all know happens, in every country, civilized and less civilized alike.
Having said that, don't go, unless you wish to, for any extra-value services that your local post office is likely to propose. You will not get a better service from those, especially if you send your letter/parcel to a country where they can't figure out your language. What you need is the most basic, cheapest option to register (with receipt) your letter to abroad, the only vital thing here being to register it and it should definitely cost you under 8 or 10 euros that's for a 20-50g sending.
The receipt option is something you definitely want to add because even if postal staff of the receiving country cannot decipher it or simply doesn't know what to do with it, this will secure your sending again internal theft while it still hasn't reached border, and offer some kind of protection once it has crossed border. Even if as a foreign postal staff who couldn't read English you can't read on it, it makes you less likely to try any funny move since you know it looks like a receipt... .

Needless to say too that you do not need to tell your local post office what you are going to send. Even if you are certain you can trust the staff there and you went to school with them, do not, ever ever tell them you are going to send something of that value, as your letter might not even make it to the next village or town.

Also, you might use some administrative documents that look like they are official and important, but important to you, boring for others, and tape the card on it using some tape.  Like it would be a discount or corporate, insurance card.
But now what about things that are bigger, that take more room? Well the same logic applies, that...everything has to look normal. New clothes could be a good choice, the trick being that, you need to imagine the stuff going through scanning at the airport, to try and picture how it would all look like for a custom officer watching the surveillance monitor, and whose job is to spot everything that falls under the category 'not-ordinary' or 'not 1000% ordinary'.

You also need to picture the letter or package being opened manually for extra-checking. I mean, you don't want to send a pair of thick socks to your son that lives in Thailand while you live in Canada, and hide the card inside the socks. This would draw attention, and this is what you do not want - draw attention. Few people need thick socks in Thailand, but above all, what kind of relatives send socks to someone thousands miles away, and what kind of person is adventurous enough to go to Thailand but coward enough not to buy his/her own socks and needs a relative to send some for them?

That's what I am about, you need to think just as a border officer would, and you need to use your common sense, and everything will run smoothly, safely, as securely as with the most popular secure delivery companies, but without having to break the bank. 


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