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Zambia 2016 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Zambia; Africa > Zambia > Lusaka

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

A worsening economy, decreased global demand for Zambia’s largest export (copper), increased unemployment, sustained electricity outages, and sudden inflation have contributed to conditions that have increased the opportunities for criminals to take advantage. Further economic shocks – including continued increases in the costs of food staples like maize meal – and national elections in August have the potential to inflame public tensions.

Post Crime Rating: High

Crime Threats

Thefts, sexual assaults, home invasions, and carjackings continue to affect ordinary citizens, diplomats, and visitors alike. Crime is not confined to late night hours. Robberies involving the use of firearms have occurred in Lusaka during daylight hours and in populated areas; strong-arm robberies and carjackings have even occurred in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy. The use of firearms and edged weapons during the commission of these crimes is common. Americans and other foreigners are viewed as especially lucrative targets to thieves, often for no other reason than their perceived wealth.

The most commonly reported crimes against Westerners in Lusaka are non-violent confrontations characterized as crimes of opportunity (theft of unattended possessions in public places/hotel rooms, a variety of creative confidence scams). Pickpocketing is common in Zambia, and the perpetrators are very adept. Pickpockets operate in crowded markets, and visitors have reported snatch-and-grab attacks on busy city streets and from idle vehicles in traffic. 

While Zambian citizens are most often the victims of residential crimes, burglary and theft also occur in the more affluent neighborhoods where Americans reside despite countermeasures (guards, walls, alarm systems, lighting). 

Violent attacks (armed carjackings, kidnappings-for-ransom, home invasions/burglaries, sexual assaults) have occurred in 2015. Victims are often followed from banks, nightclubs, and ATMs and later robbed at gunpoint on the street or upon arrival at their residence. Carjackings are one of the most serious crimes in Zambia, and perpetrators are likely to be armed. A typical carjacking scenario involves the suspects following a victim until they reach a “chokepoint,” which is most often a closed residential gate, then blocking the victim’s vehicle with their own while two or more armed individuals execute the carjacking.

In 2015, numerous Americans reported theft of money and property from locked hotel rooms. A majority of these crimes were inside jobs perpetrated by hotel employees and housekeeping staff. No hotel, even upscale establishments, is immune. Even the small safes provided by the hotel are vulnerable and should not be trusted. 

Zambia is largely a cash-based society (though commercial hotel and restaurant outlets increasingly are accepting credit cards). The occurrence of credit card theft and fraud is low in comparison to the U.S. Credit card terminals exist in major shops, hotels, supermarkets, and restaurants. Incidents of financial fraud and identity theft crimes are increasing.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is not yet a major problem in Zambia, likely due to the relatively low percentage of personal computer ownership and Internet penetration. The latter is estimated at 23 percent. 

Other Areas of Concern

Currently there are no “off-limits” areas of Lusaka, prohibited establishments, or curfews, though visitors should be cautious at night, especially at clubs and restaurants. 

In Lusaka’s poorer neighborhoods (Chalala, Bauleni, Chibolya, Chainda), groups of criminals commit crimes that go uninvestigated due to a lack of police resources. These same criminal gangs sometimes go on to victimize residents in wealthier neighborhoods, including foreigners. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road safety is an even more significant threat than crime. Vehicle travel is extremely hazardous under normal conditions, but particularly so at night and during inclement weather. Zambia has an average of 50 fatalities per 100,000 residents (the highest metropolitan rate in the U.S. by contrast is 17.8 fatalities per 100,000 residents). Defensive driving is a must. Traffic laws are routinely ignored by many local drivers, who often possess poor driving skills and/or training. Local drivers often exhibit little regard for pedestrians, other motorists’ right-of-way, bicycle traffic, or general safe driving practices. Non-Zambians have occasionally experienced hostility from Zambian motorists. Americans and others have been followed, cut off, and threatened. Some have received taunts. Pedestrian deaths are also a major problem given the fact that virtually all streets and roads lack sidewalks or overhead lighting. Traffic moves on the left, so, it is essential to look to the right before crossing the street on foot or pulling on to a road in a vehicle. Drunk drivers are a major concern. American citizens should be extremely cautious when walking, jogging, or biking. Road conditions are even worse in outlying or rural areas. This is especially true during the rainy seasons when roads deteriorate at a rapid rate, causing extensive potholes and other road hazards.

Impromptu roadblocks set up by local security forces are commonplace and may or may not be officially sanctioned. Drivers stopped at these roadblocks may be subjected to a safety inspection of their vehicles. During these inspections police may check for road safety equipment (reflective triangles, fire extinguisher, first aid kit) and test the vehicles lights/brakes. Those who do not have the required equipment or otherwise fail the inspection may be fined.

There are no self-driving issues provided that the visitor has a valid driver’s license and is in Zambia for less than 90 days. Americans should be continuously aware of their surroundings, and if you notice a vehicle following you or any other suspicious activity, do not drive home. Instead, proceed immediately to an illuminated public area or a police station. When traveling in a vehicle, keep your doors locked and windows secured. Keep valuable items out of sight. Always keep adequate space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you to ensure you can maneuver in the event of a situation requiring escape from the area. Be aware of what is taking place outside of the vehicle. Motorists should always attempt to park in secure, well-illuminated locations. Do not hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers. 

Public Transportation Conditions

Many of the small passenger vans drive aggressively and dangerously. Many vehicles are in poor mechanical condition with worn tires and broken/missing tail lights, brake lights, and headlights. Official taxi cabs are generally considered safe but some lack seat belts. Public mini-buses are dangerous, as they are normally overcrowded and poorly maintained. Cabs found at the major hotels tend to be more reliable. To avoid confrontation or fleecing, rates should be negotiated with the driver prior to embarkation. Do not share taxis with strangers. 

Terrorism Threat

Post Terrorism Rating: Low

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There have been no instances of terrorism targeting American citizens or affiliated interests in Zambia. 

The government is sensitive to the threat of terrorism and is engaged with international partners to combat this scourge. However, visitors should carefully consider attendance of any large public gatherings that could become attractive targets for terrorists. The government is not a state sponsor of terrorist activities and does not permit foreign fighters to transit the country. However, transnational terrorism is a concern throughout the continent, as increased law enforcement and anti-terrorism activities in the Horn of Africa have the potential to force terrorist organizations to seek targets in areas outside their traditional sphere of operations. Money laundering, although present to facilitate other criminal activities, is not used to support terrorist activities or groups in Zambia. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

In January 2015, Zambia successfully held a nationwide presidential by-election following the sudden death of President Michael Sata. During that election, ruling Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu defeated opposition United Party for National Development candidate Hakainde Hichilema by 27,757 votes (1.66 percent) in the closest election in Zambian history and amid low voter turnout. The election process was freely contested and credible. Subsequent to the announcement of Lungu’s win, there were widespread celebrations by Patriotic Front supporters, with reports of road closures and scattered incidents of small-scale violence. In the Central Business District in Lusaka, for example, several shops, a medical center, and a bank were looted during the late-night post-announcement celebrations. 

Per constitutional amendments, national elections for president, parliament, and local positions will take place August 11, 2016. Unofficial political campaigns have begun in earnest and will likely increase in frequency and intensity throughout the year. Most analysts expect this year’s presidential election will be close. Zambia has a history of democratic and peaceful elections, but a close race could increase the possibility for isolated incidents of political violence.

Post Political Violence Rating: Low

Civil Unrest

There have been no acts of political violence specifically targeting Americans in Zambia. 

Spontaneous demonstrations take place. Visitors should remember that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Police sometimes arrest demonstrators and have dispersed public gatherings with nonlethal force. Visitors are cautioned to avoid any large crowds, demonstrations, or political activities. Visitors should also stay current with local events, and be aware of their surroundings.

Post-specific Concerns

Critical Infrastructure Concerns 

Only 25 percent of the country is connected to the national power grid. For areas that are, poor rainfall and water resource mismanagement have had negative impacts on Zambia’s hydro power-dependent generation capacity. As a result, areas on the grid experience frequent blackouts. 

Zambia’s telecommunications and Internet infrastructure is substandard and of limited availability outside of urban areas and large towns. Approximately 75 percent of the population has access to cell phones, but less than one percent have landlines. This makes telephonic communication difficult, dependent upon coverage areas, and prone to cell tower or system overloading. 

Personnel-Background Concerns

Although Zambia is a conservative country that places emphasis on modesty and decorum, the population is very tolerant of visitors. Generally, there are no issues for travelers based on race religion, or nationality. 

Zambia presents a challenging environment for individuals with disabilities pertaining to physical movement. 

Although there have been no incidents with LGBTI members of the U.S. citizen community, police have attempted to arrest an openly gay German citizen. Traditional cultural norms and conservative tendencies permeate Zambian society, so there is often LGBTI intolerance. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal. 

Drug-related Crimes

Possession of more than 0.5 grams of an illegal substance constitutes drug trafficking. 

Police Response

The majority of police units do not compare to a U.S. police force in terms of capability, responsiveness, or professionalism. The Zambia Police Service is almost solely a reactive force and demonstrates rather poor proactive law enforcement techniques/initiative. Police often lack equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies. Police response times can be long, if there is a response at all. Lack of adequate transportation is often cited as an excuse for slow response. Most crimes go unreported and/or are not investigated at all. The police have a poor record of solving serious crimes and few are ever brought to trial. Inadequate legislation results in the lack of prosecution or large numbers of acquittals. Corruption occurs at all levels, resulting in an ineffective legal and justice system.

Vigilantism is present, as the critically under-funded and ill-equipped police have a poor rate of investigative closure and prosecution for crimes wher they do occur.

Prohibited wildlife products that require a Zambia Wildlife Authority permit to be moved in/out of the country include ivory bangles, ivory in its raw and carved form, fossils and protected plants, elephant hair products, reptile and wildlife skins, bird eggs and feathers, horns, teeth, tusks and claws, and bush meat (game meat). When in doubt, check local laws and declare these products to Customs authorities.

Always ask permission before taking a photograph. Local citizens may request a small fee for taking a picture of them or their surroundings. Do not photograph government buildings, embassies, military installations, airports, bridges, or other locations or items of a possible security or intelligence interest. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

All persons should attempt to cooperate and follow the instructions of police at checkpoints to avoid problems.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Corruption is a problem throughout the ranks. Low pay and morale create an environment in which bribes of even a few dollars can make allegations disappear. It is not recommended to pay bribes, comply with requests for a “gift,” or pay on-the-spot fines. If an officer persists, comply with instructions, identify yourself as a U.S. citizen, obtain the officer’s name and badge number, and politely ask to speak with a supervisor and/or request to be taken to police headquarters for further processing. 

Zambia police are required to notify the U.S. Embassy when an American citizen has been arrested; however, they consistently fail to do so. If arrested, be certain to assert this right and demand to speak with a representative from the U.S. Embassy by calling +260 (0) 211-357-000, or +260-966-877-805, or if after normal business hours +260 (0) 966-864-030. 

Crime Victim Assistance

Should an American citizen need to contact the Zambia Police Service in an emergency, they can be reached by dialing either 991 or 112 on local phones.
Police/Security Agencies

The major law enforcement agencies are the Zambia Police Service (a nationwide police force responsible for traditional policing and investigations), Immigration, Customs, the Drug Enforcement Commission (similar to the U.S. DEA), the Anti-Corruption Commission (responsible for investigating and prosecuting official corruption cases), and the Zambia wildlife office responsible for the country’s wildlife and national parks. There is no dedicated border patrol; border security is performed by whichever law enforcement agency may have a presence at the border at any given time.

Although there are a number of security and private guard companies throughout Zambia’s larger cities, it is advisable to research any prospective security company for quality and reliability when considering hiring their services.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards in terms of cleanliness and quality of treatment. Many lack adequate equipment or properly trained staff and possess limited to non-existent screening and testing capabilities. Trauma care is extremely limited, and local hospitals should only be used in the event of an extreme medical emergency. Visitors with serious health concernsor who are on blood thinners (with the exception of aspirin), should be very cautious in traveling to Zambia because of the poor health care. 

Most health care facilities require patients to pay money up front, before being admitted to a hospital or provided treatment, and require them to settle the bill in full with cash prior to discharge from the hospital. Foreigners are commonly charged a higher rate than local residents for medical services. 

Many medications are in short supply, of inferior quality, or are fraudulent. Misdiagnosis, unreliable treatment, and improper use of drugs are often reported. Visitors should bring their own supply of medications, as the quality of medications is inconsistent, and counterfeit drugs are a problem. The Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission has detained a number of U.S. citizens for possession of antihistamines and other over-the-counter medications, which contain small quantities of diphenhydramine, an ingredient that is on Zambia’s list of controlled substances. U.S. citizens have been charged with drug trafficking offenses, had their passports confiscated, and have been jailed. While government officials have told the Embassy that carrying such over-the-counter medications with a doctor’s prescription is permitted, U.S. citizens should consider leaving these medications behind. In the event medications (over-the-counter medication, antibiotics, allergy remedies, malaria prophylaxis) are needed, travelers may contact the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit to receive general information about reliable pharmacies. ACS maintains a list of physicians, clinics, and pharmacies as generated by the Embassy Health Unit. When traveling with prescription medications, U.S. citizens should carry a doctor’s prescription and ensure that the medication is in its original bottle. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

The following is a list of some of the clinics available. Although these clinics are better equipped, they are not endorsed or recommended by the Embassy and are presented in alphabetical order. Doctors and services at these clinics vary from day to day. Be sure to call the individual clinics for current information, costs, etc.

Ambulance/Medical Rescue Service


Special Emergency Services

PO Box 31500

Tel: +260 211273 302 / 7

Fax: +260 211 273 301 / 273 181

Cell: 0977 770 305 / 0977 770 302

Radio Phone: +260 211 212 663 / 4

Emergency Control Centre: (01) 273 302-7



Special Emergency Services

PO Box 20324

Tel: +260 2 211 182

Fax +260 2 211 184

Cell: +260 977 770 306 / 7



Special Emergency Services

Tel: +260 3 322330

Cell: +260 977 740 307 / 8


General Health Providers



Care For Business

Plot No. 4192 Addis Ababa Drive

HOURS: Mon-Fri: 08:30-12:00 and 14:00-16:00; Sat: 09:00-12:00

Tel: +260 211 254 396 / 8 / or +260 211 252 917 for appointments; +260 211 254 398 – Administration

Fax: +260 211 254 402

OTHER SERVICES: Common laboratory tests, X-ray, physiotherapy and pharmacy, dietician.




Plot No.3236 Cairo Road (behind Barclays North end Branch)

HOURS: Mon-Fri: 08:00-16:00; Sat: 08:00-10:00; Night Doctor: 16:00-07:00; Weekend emergency clinic: Sat 11:00-Mon 7:00

Tel: +260 211 222 612 / 226 983 / 236 643


OTHER SERVICES: Common laboratory tests, x-ray, physiotherapy, pharmacy, ultra sound and minor surgical procedures.


Italian Orthopedic Hospital

Plot No. 22 Dunduza Chisidza Crescent

HOURS: Mon-Fri 07:30-18:00; Sat 07:30-12:30; Sun 07:30-13:00

Tel: +260 211 254 601 / 256 898

Fax: +260 211 255 113



Lusaka Adventist Clinic

Independence and Burma Roads



Lusaka Trust Hospital

Plot 2191, Nsumbu Rd., Woodlands

Tel: 0211 252 190, 211 253 481, 0211 254 702

Fax: 0211 252 292




Mutti Clinic

No. 123, Nambala Close, off Bwinjifumu Road, Fair View

HOURS: (Open Clinic) Mon-Fri: 08:00-12:30 & 14:00-17:00 Sat: 08:00-12:00 Sun: 09:00-10:00

Tel: +260 211 227 178

Fax: +260 211 223 627


OTHER SERVICES: Common lab tests, x-ray, and ECG.


St. John's Medical Centre (Monica Chiumya Clinic)

Plot No. 9024 Buluwe Road, (off Leopards Hill Road near Lake Road)

HOURS: (Open Clinic): Mon-Sun (24 Hours Service)

Tel: +260 211 261 247

Tel-Fax: +260 211 261 987

OTHER SERVICES: Common lab tests, x-ray, ultrasound, physiotherapy and ECG.


Teba Medical Centre

5493 Great East Road (opposite University of Zambia)

HOURS: Mon-Sun: 24 Hours Service

Doctor: Dr. Salem

Tel: +260 211 290 141 or +260 211 291 037 or 0966 757 492



Trust Medical Services (MKP)

No. 5, Off Reed Buck Road/Kudu Road, Kabulonga

HOURS: Mon-Fri: 08:00-18:00, Sat: 08:00-12:00

Tel: +260 211 266 986 / 265 349 / 265 359

Fax: 211 266 985

Cell: 0978 775 642

OTHER SERVICES: Common laboratory tests, x-ray, pharmacy, ultrasound and minor surgical procedures.


Dr. Jain, Surgery

Tel: +260-3-220998

Plot 234 Mochipapa Rd

Tel: +260 955 772 977



St. Francis

Dr. Parkinson

Tel: +260 0977 207 760



Mukinge Mission Hospital

Tel: +260 8 251 086



Company Clinic

Tel: 212 225 693 /212 223 939

Cell: +260 966 780 999 or +260 966 784 219


McGregor Nursing Services Ltd

Tel: 212 22 2364

1 Kuomboka Drive, Parklands



Dr. Shafik Hospital

Chanda Mali Area

Katete Road past Fairmont Hotel and Armadillo restaurant

Tel: 260 213 321 130

Cell: +260 955 863 000



Southern Medical Centre

Plot 1967, Mokambo Road

Tel: +260 213 323 547 / 323 786

Cell: 0977 777 017 / 0955 797 577




Dr. Oliver

Tel: +260 0955 850 231




Dr. Gas Njie A-T Dental Clinic

Plot 6011, Chitemene Road, Northmead

Tel: +260 211 292 656/ 290 487 / 291 392

Fax: +260 211 290 487


Dr. Paul Yoo Adventist Dental Services

Plot 59 ChipwenupwenuRoad, Makeni (off Kafue Road)

Tel: +260 211 273 404 / 0979 727 412


Dr. Kenan Gao KGDental Surgery

Plot No. 5459 Kariba Road (off Great East Road)

Tel: +260 211 292 219

Fax: +260 211 290 922


Dr. M. A. SowdenPearliWhyte

Villa 3, Millennium Village (behind Intercontinental Hotel)

Birdcage Walk, Longacres, Lusaka

Tel: 0211 220 828

Cell: 0977 606 364


Dr. A. E. Patel, Reliance Dental Services

728 Cairo Road

Tel: +260 211 224 972 / 220 603

Lusaka Eye Hospital (Adventist) 
Tel: +260 21 1213909 / 097-988-4100
Plot 59 Chipwenupwenu Road, Makeni (off Kafue Road)
Dr. Lakshmi, Sunbird Eye Clinic
Tel: +260 211 252 450
Plot No. 65, Independence Avenue

Plot No. 174, Villa Elizabeth, Along Luanshya Road.
Professional Counselors: Mr. Stanley Chama and Mrs. Georgina Mutale.
Tel: +260 211 227 086
Fax: +260 211 227 087

Link Pharmacy
Tel: 260 211 255556
Link Pharmacies can be found at Woodlands Shopping Center, Levy Junction and Manda Hill in Lusaka. The pharmacist at Manda Hill is knowledgeable and helpful. If a particular medication is not available, he is often able to offer advice as to where it can be found. Additionally, they will often arrange for transfer of medications or prescriptions between their locations to assist customers.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Specialty Emergency Services is the only entity offering in-country air medevac services. Individuals without medevac insurance are required to pay cash up front for services. 
Specialty Emergency Services
Box 31500, Lusaka, Zambia
Tel: +260 211 273 302, or +260 977 770 305

Recommended Insurance Posture

All travelers are advised to purchase insurance to cover medical evacuation in case of a serious accident, injury, or illness. Medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the situation, so all travelers should ensure their policies provide sufficient coverage. Current prices for an air ambulance range from US$20,000-$75,000 or more, depending upon destination and level of service; therefore, adequate medical evacuation insurance is mandatory.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

Travelers are advised to see a physician prior to travelling to ensure that appropriate immunizations and precautions are taken. All visitors should have current vaccinations prior to arrival in the country. These include, but are not limited to, tetanus, polio, meningitis, typhoid, hepatitis A and B, and rabies. Gastrointestinal diseases, tuberculosis, dengue fever, malaria, rabies, and yellow fever pose serious risks. Extended stays outside of Lusaka require malaria prophylaxis. Visitors should begin taking malaria prophylaxis prior to arrival and hand-carry enough medication for the duration of their visit. Be sure to take properly prescribed anti-malarial medication when traveling outside of Lusaka and remember that Zambia’s HIV rate is among the world’s highest. The cholera vaccine is not required.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information. 

For Zambia specific vaccination information, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) traveler’s website at 

OSAC Country Council Information

Embassy Lusaka has an OSAC Country Council that meets as necessary and communicates regularly via a Google Group. The RSO provides country briefings for representatives of American businesses, non-governmental organizations, academia, and faith-based organizations as requested. One of the best sources for overseas security information such as travel advisories, country background notes, and links to other U.S. government travel and security services is the OSAC website ( Point of Contact is RSO Jonathan P. Kazmar,, +260 (0) 211-357-000 x7340. To reach OSAC’s Africa team, please email

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

The U.S. Embassy is located at the eastern end of Kabulonga Road, on Ibex Hill. 

Normal business hours are Mon-Thurs from 8:00am to 5:00pm, and Fri from 8:00am to 12:30pm. 

Embassy Contact Numbers

The main telephone number is +260 (0) 211-357-000. 
American Citizen Services Section: +260-966-877-805. 
Consular Section: +260 (0) 211-357-000 x7260
Duty Officer: +260 (0) 966-864-030
Post One: +260 (0) 211-357-000 x7221
RSO Office: +260 (0) 211-357-000 x7266
The Embassy is available 24 hours a day to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies. 

Embassy Guidance

A passport and visa are required to enter Zambia. The passport must be valid for at least six months after the intended date of departure from Zambia and have at least two blank pages. A single-entry visa may be obtained at a port of entry for $50 and is valid for 90 days. For a three-year multiple entry visa, travelers must apply in advance at a Zambian Embassy or Consulate ( The three-year multiple-entry visa fee is $80. Tourists visiting for the day from a neighboring country (such as those visiting Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe) can obtain a $20 day-trip visa at the border. Tour organizers may arrange multiple-entry visas in advance. Bring exact change whenever practical as change may not be available. Travelers have the right to request a receipt and can report any concerns to Zambia Immigration Headquarters in Lusaka (near the Intercontinental Hotel).

All American citizens traveling to Zambia should consult the Department of State’s website, for current information about the security situation within Zambia prior to travel. All American citizens traveling to Zambia are advised to refer to the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Information ( for additional useful information. This resource provides information on a variety of issues intended to ensure your trip to Zambia is safe and trouble-free. 

All Americans should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program ( prior to traveling to Zambia. U.S. citizens wishing to conduct business in Zambia should consult the Embassy Lusaka Economic Section website for guidance and reports ( The U.S. Embassy maintains a liaison with local law enforcement officials and is available to assist American citizens during their stay in Zambia. 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim


Advance-fee fraud schemes are prevalent throughout Africa, including Zambia, and pose a danger of serious financial loss. These scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually e-mails) from strangers who promise quick financial gain, often by transferring large sums of money or valuables out of the country, but then require a series of "advance fees" to be paid (fees for legal documents, taxes). The final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is to collect the advance fees. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent family or a relative of a present/former political leader who needs assistance in transferring large sums of cash. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information and financial authorization that is used to drain their accounts, incur large debts against their credit, and take their life savings. 

Another common scam in Zambia is the “black money” or “wash wash” scam in which con artists attempt to obtain money from a victim fraudulently by persuading him/her that piles of banknote-sized paper in a trunk or a safe are actually U.S. currency notes that have been dyed to avoid detection by authorities. The victim is persuaded to pay fees and purchase chemicals to remove the dye, with the promise of a share in the proceeds.

Beware of offers to sell you gems, gold, semi-precious stones, etc. These types of activities could result in substantial loss of money or violation of local laws. Do not purchase gems/minerals from an unlicensed source. 

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of any scheme is common sense: if a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal should be thoroughly researched before committing any funds, providing any goods/services, or undertaking any travel. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams. 

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

All American citizen visitors and those planning to reside in Zambia are advised to follow common-sense guidelines to avoid becoming victims of crime. Normal crime prevention methods will help lessen the likelihood of becoming a victim. Walking alone is not advisable in the downtown areas, public parks, and other poorly illuminated areas at night. Travel in groups when feasible. If you see something or someone suspicious, be prepared to act quickly. Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Be alert to any unusual surveillance or activity near the places you frequently visit. Vary your routes/times so that others cannot predict your schedule. Appear to walk with a purpose; do not give the impression that you are lost or wandering. There is evidence that criminals observe these vulnerabilities and target the individuals that display them. Maintain control of your personal items when in public areas and move away from anyone who you believe is acting suspiciously. Thieves often attempt to distract a victim by asking questions, begging for money, bumping or jostling the individual, or offering to sell items. While the victim is distracted, an accomplice may take a piece of luggage or pick the victim’s pocket or purse. Never carry anything that you are not willing to relinquish in a confrontation with a thief. In the event that an armed criminal confronts you, immediately hand over the desired property to avoid escalation or injury. Resistive behavior tends to cause more violence by the attackers. 

The best way to avoid being a victim of a carjacking is to be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night or early morning hours, and ensure vehicle doors and windows are locked at all times while traveling. 

Avoid wearing flashy jewelry, clothing or carrying expensive cameras in public. It is important to limit the amount of valuables and cash you carry with you, specifically ATM or credit cards. Should one be robbed while carrying ATM or credit cards, a criminal may prolong the incident by taking the victim to multiple ATMs to force cash withdrawals. Travelers should only use banks and ATMs in well-illuminated locations and be aware of pickpockets who may be “stalking” people making cash withdrawals or “lurking” individuals who may be targeting/marking you for an attack once you depart the premises or get into your vehicle. Credit cards can be used in certain establishments (major hotel chains, some local restaurants), but caution is advised. Travelers are reminded to check credit card statements shortly after the transaction occurs.

Do not leave valuable items unsecured in your residence/quarters. Do not carry valuables in excess of immediate needs, and keep what you need in a secure place on your person. Do not leave anything of value unlocked in your unoccupied hotel room. Supervise/escort all workers in your quarters. Always secure the doors and windows to your residence or hotel room. Do not store excessive currency or other valuable items at your residence. They may attract the attention of criminals. Carefully protect all financial/personal information and credit cards. Do not discuss travel plans or other business in a venue where others can hear you.

Practice good operational security if you are transporting valuable items into/around Zambia. According to police sources, some robberies committed against expatriates appear to have been carried out by persons with inside information regarding the victims.