A couple of years ago, I came across Smart Traveller claiming that wearing your name tag can increase the risk of crime and assault in the form of someone who pretends to already know you taking advantage of your trust:

A young Australian woman was attending a conference in a foreign city, and went shopping downtown for the afternoon. A young man approached her, greeting her by name and explained he was from the hotel where she was staying and would look after her. He took her to meet friends at another hotel and bought her a drink. When she woke in the morning she had been assaulted and robbed. She discovered she was still wearing her conference name tag - that was how the young man had known her name.

However, this anecdote is no longer on Smart Traveller (I got it from another web site that copied its contents), and I've never heard anyone else talk about this.

Is wearing a name tag in public in foreign cities a risk?

Background: A recent conference I attended, that's not in my home city, asked us to wear our lanyards while going from the conference venue to a pub, and while at the pub. I want to know if this is something risky that should be avoided.

  • Foreign cities? You mean somebody from Pakistan or Barcelona attending a conference in New South Wales for instance? – hippietrail Mar 5 '13 at 7:56
  • @hippietrail In my case, someone from Sydney attending a conference in Melbourne. Anywhere where your accommodation isn't your own home. – Andrew Grimm Mar 5 '13 at 9:18
  • I would suggest rewording the question title to make it clear. As it is it sounds bit like foreigners should be expected to be not nice, and most people won't understand "foreign" to mean another city in the person's home country. – hippietrail Mar 6 '13 at 0:35
  • Actually I was bold and put in a new question title for you - feel free to edit it again. – hippietrail Mar 6 '13 at 0:46

I have had conference organizers remind us not to wear our badges out on the street. (For example in Barcelona, where everyone I knew was robbed or had a robbery story, including someone whose bag was slit in an elevator and laptop removed.) It's not so much because strangers will know your name (I am reminded of advice not to put children's names on their backpacks or lunches because then kidnappers will know their names) but more that it screams THIS PERSON IS A TOURIST! ON EXPENSE ACCOUNT! WITH A PHONE AND A LAPTOP! to pickpockets and the like.

Just because you need your badge to get into the event doesn't mean you need to wear it around your neck on the subway. Tuck it into your coat, or take it off and put it in your pocket. Once you're at the event with the other attendees, you can wear it again - the bad guys will know the whole pub is full of attendees whether you wear it or not, and it goes back to having networking value with the other attendees.

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  • I was told the same thing at the TechEd Barcelona. Well, common sense alone should tell one that :) – oleschri Mar 4 '13 at 19:49

Well I think it depends on the city you're visiting.

In a "bad" environment, any sign that you're a foreigner might give potential pick-pockets or other "bad guys" a hint that you might be a good target. I've read in travelguides, that you should try not to keep a map openly visible and try not to look around you too much.

Personally I think a lot of these tips tend to get a little paranoic. Use common sense.

So, back to your question: Wearing a name tag might alert someone that you're a visitor. Holding a map in your hands might do that as well. I wouldn't worry too much.

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    Depends where you are - in some cities if you're holding a map people will come up and try to help you. (Perth, Australia was one place where everyone was amazingly friendly and helpful). All depends on what city you're in, and what area within the city! – Gagravarr Mar 4 '13 at 17:58
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    @Gagravarr: Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. I suspect that most cities have many friendly people and some pickpockets. If carrying a map gets you friendly help, but also gets your wallet stolen, it might not be worth it overall. :-P – ruakh Mar 4 '13 at 18:37
  • The first time I visited New York we were warned to never show a map in public, because it would apparently lead to you being killed and eaten or something. But when we did, on the subway, it led to nice people arguing with each other about which route would be quickest for us to acheive our objective :-) – Kate Gregory Mar 6 '13 at 6:38
  • @KateGregory in other areas of New York you'd likely indeed have ended up mugged after being led by a "helpful person" to some dark alley. But the same could happen in most any city if you end up in the wrong part of town. General rule of thumb I keep is "if it looks more run down than normal for the country, get the hell out" – jwenting Mar 6 '13 at 9:31

When I'm visiting some city to attend some event or conference, I try to expose the name tag only while I'm in the event's place. There's no need to show name tags publicly, right? But I do agree that it all depends on the city you are, as perdian said above.

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    I even tend to hide any badges or name tags immediately after leaving the conference to avoid anyone thinking "Oooh, look - he went to XYZ - what a waste of time!" ;-) – perdian Mar 4 '13 at 14:12
  • LOL, there's that too. – Esdras Beleza Mar 4 '13 at 14:15

The issue you are referring to is definitely existing, not only for name tags but anything else that might act as a point of entrance for someone who tries to con you. It works better if the person traveled further away from home or is in a cultural environment that is significantly different from what they are used to.

For instance, it is very common that Japanese people get cheated/tricked or even robbed my people who know Japanese in foreign Countries. Since Japanese people often do not speak foreign language, a person addressing them in Japanese seems more trustworthy than someone addressing them in the local language.

If the person knows what you are doing by spotting your conference tag or even knows your name, people are unfortunately often tricked into unreasonable trust to that person.\

On top of course, as mentioned above, the risk of being robbed on the assumptions an attacker might deduct from the conference you are attending is an additional risk of a name tag.

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I really think this would require research into the city/country you will be visiting. I am a Zimbabwean that resides in South Africa. In Zimbabwe if people identify one as a tourist they tend to give them more attention and assistance however here in South Africa that could likely attract thieves. So it really depends on the area one is visiting.

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