Crime continues to be a major public security concern in Côte d’Ivoire. Armed carjackings, robberies of businesses, and home invasions occur regularly, targeting residents, including expatriates, who are perceived as wealthy. U.S. citizens, either visiting or residing in Côte d’Ivoire, are strongly encouraged to remain alert and aware of their surroundings to prevent becoming a victim of crime. The general guidance for travel to Côte d’Ivoire is exercise the same prudence and caution that you would in any metropolitan area in the United States. Common sense steps include refraining from displaying jewelry and other valuables and carrying limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents. In addition, home and car doors should be locked at all times. When moving about the city, stay in well-lit areas and walk confidently at a steady pace on the side of the street facing traffic close to the curb. Avoid crowds, mass transit, alleys, and sparsely populated areas. Take caution when walking past concealed areas such as doorways and bushes. Whenever possible, travel in pairs or small groups. If you go out at night and need transportation, orange taxis are metered, although no safer than any other taxis. There have been reports of muggings and robbery scams even in metered taxis. Always carry identification and be discreet about your transactions, especially on the street. Normal spending habits of Westerners may appear extravagant to Ivoirians. U.S. citizens have been economic targets. There have been few reported cases of sexual assault against foreigners, but there are no available statistics or other reliable reporting on this issue.
Be particularly alert when visiting Abidjan’s Treichville, Marcory, Koumassi, Yopougon, and Abobo districts. Popular neighborhoods for nighttime entertainment, such as Zone 4, Treichville, and Plateau, often attract crime. When traveling outside of Abidjan, you should avoid traveling after dark and be aware that rogue police, security forces, and criminals often use vehicular checkpoints to extort money from drivers and passengers. If you must travel after dark, use extreme caution.
U.S. citizens who are stopped by police/security forces are urged to be polite and cooperate. If you are ticketed, you should ask the officer for a receipt for any items confiscated by the police, such as a driver’s license or other identification. Drivers issued a ticket should note, however, that it is legal to pay the police officer money by the side of the road, but the amount paid should not exceed the amount printed on the ticket itself. The fees generally range from 500 CFA to 2,000 CFA (approximately one to four U.S. dollars).
U.S. citizens detained by the police should ask that the U.S. Embassy be notified immediately at 225 2249-4000/4450.
Contact information for local authorities includes:
Abidjan Police Prefecture /Emergency Number: 225- 20-22-16-33/16-87 and 225- 20-21-00-70
Ministry of Interior and Security: 225-20-25-20-03
Credit card use in Côte d’Ivoire is limited, particularly outside Abidjan, and credit card fraud is an increasing problem. Business fraud is common and the perpetrators often target foreigners. Schemes previously associated with Nigeria are now prevalent in Côte d’Ivoire, and pose a risk of grave financial loss. Typically these scams begin with unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) 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, such as fees for legal documents or taxes. A common variation is the scammer’s claim to be a refugee or émigré of a prominent West African family, who needs assistance transferring large sums of cash. Another common scam involves alleged victims of a serious accident or injury in need of money for life-saving medical care. Still other variations appear to be legitimate business deals that require advance payments on contracts or large purchases of merchandise using fraudulent credit cards. Sometimes victims are convinced to provide bank account and credit card information, and authorize financial transactions that drain their accounts, causing them to incur large debts.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense, if a proposition looks too good to be true it probably is a scam, particularly if you have never met the correspondent. You should carefully check and research any unsolicited business proposal before committing funds, providing goods or services, or undertaking travel. A good clue to a scam is the phone number given to the victim; legitimate businesses and offices provide fixed line numbers, while scams typically use only cellular (cell) phones. In Côte d’Ivoire, most cell phone numbers start with 44, 45, 46, 48, 58, 60, 66, or 67. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams. For additional information, please consult the Department of State's brochure on international financial scams.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.