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Most of the world has heard that Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in the Paris townhouse where she was staying early Monday morning. Armed men dressed as police officers gained access to her room by threatening a concierge and allegedly tied up the reality star while they ransacked her belongings before escaping on bicycles with over $10 million in jewelry.
This story isn’t exactly relatable, but advisors can still glean some lessons from it to apply to their own wealthy clients who travel frequently. In today’s increasingly connected, social media–enabled environment, wealthy individuals are often just as at risk as celebrities. Though a client’s security abroad isn’t the first priority that springs to mind, high net worth clients expect a more involved and personal level of service, and savvy advisors can differentiate themselves by going above and beyond and paying attention to such details.
Here are six pieces of advice you can offer your wealthy clients to help avoid trouble when they travel.
1. Don’t make yourself a target.
Kim Kardashian is known for her social media presence. It’s a large part of what’s made her famous. However, that sort of access is both a blessing and a curse. Flashing your cash and belongings on Twitter and Instagram is a good way to draw attention, both wanted and otherwise. Your clients don’t have much control over who keeps track of them on most social media platforms, and they know next basically nothing about these “followers” to whom they are offering windows into their lives. When, just a couple of days prior to the robbery, Kim posted a picture of her new 20-carat diamond engagement ring, she likely thought she was just doing some simple “brand building.” Maybe she feels differently now that it’s gone.
2. Don’t advertise your location.
People carry around all sorts of devices that automatically—and constantly—track their locations. And, that’s when they’re not offering up that information willingly, by posting pictures or geo-tagging themselves on their social media accounts. In Kardashian’s case, not only did the entire world know that she was traveling, they knew where she was staying and that she was alone that evening, as she uploaded a snap of her sisters going out for the night. While potential thieves are unlikely to track a well-to-do civilian around the world to hold them up, they will happily make use of the information that your client is currently not at home.
3. Private security realistically can’t always be there.
Though the presence of personal security often says more about a client’s ego and sense of importance than it does about their need for protection, bodyguards are becoming more popular among the ultra high net worth. However, bodyguards can’t be everywhere and clients need to act accordingly.
The Kardashian family is better protected than many heads of state. Kim’s personal bodyguard's name is even fairly well known—Pascal Duvier. However, thinking herself safe in her townhouse, Pascal was sent to protect her sisters in a club the evening of the robbery. Unless your clients plan to travel with multiple guards or stay in a single group for the entirety of their trip, there are bound to be lapses in coverage.
4. Consider a hotel.
Though the prestige and privacy (or price, if you’re going the Airbnb route) of renting a house when traveling certainly are attractive, for the security-conscious, a hotel may be a better choice. In addition to there simply being more people, and eyes, around at a hotel, the security is likely tighter as well. Between cameras and guards, both visible and plainclothes, a hotel presents a more difficult nut for potential thieves to crack. Additionally, most luxury hotels offer a small vault or safe deposit box (outside of the room) that guests can take advantage of to secure their belongings.
Kardashian was staying at what’s known as a hotel particulier—basically a huge townhouse with a concierge. As such, there was nobody around to help her and no security for her to call when things started to go south. Whether staying in a hotel would have prevented this crime can’t be determined for sure, but it certainly would have given Kim more options.
5. Travel light(er).
The best way not to get $10 million worth of jewelry stolen while you’re traveling is not to travel with $10 million worth of jewelry. Though this may seem like an obvious statement, many individuals think of vacations as a time to break out their best clothes and accessories and simply live it up while they’re out of town. Clients should be advised to tamp down this impulse as much as possible. Sure they want to look great in their vacation pictures, but they shouldn’t travel with anything they can’t afford to lose.
6. Mind your devices.
It’s possible that we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg of what these thieves took from Kim Kardashian. In addition to all of the jewelry, they also made off with two of her cell phones, which are no doubt packed with personal information. Though she doubtless has password-protected the devices, it should be interesting to see if the other shoe drops and even more of her private life is leaked to the public.
It’s important to remember that our digital devices carry troves of valuable information. Clients should be wary of just how much they stand to lose if their laptop or cell phone is stolen. Password protection on the phone itself and two-factor authentication on personal accounts are both good first steps. If a device is taken, the manufacturer may offer some helpful options. For instance, Apple allows you to track, remotely lock and even erase your iPhone if it goes missing.