18 Things Pickpockets Don’t Want You to Know
Whether you’re traveling abroad or in a crowded U.S. city, cunning pickpockets could be watching your every move. Here’s how to avoid becoming a target and protect your belongings.
We’ll take advantage of nice people
“Pickpockets prey on the fact that people are often willing to help others, and they’ll use this to their advantage,” Statt says. “For example, one pickpocket working as a team will drop something that you’ll offer to pick up, while the second pickpocket uses the distraction as an opportunity to steal your belongings. Be wary of any sort of help you’re offering, since it may hurt you in the long run.”
Souvenir shopping means souvenirs for us, too
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When you buy souvenirs on vacation, you probably buy some mementos for yourself and some for friends and stuff them all in one bag. Odds are, that bag doesn’t have a zipper or clasp at the top, which means any skilled hand could easily take out whatever items are on top. If you can’t fit everything securely in one bag, it’s worth making a second shopping trip, says Leigh Ann, author and creator of Countries and Cultures travel blog. “There is no point rushing to buy something only to have it stolen ten minutes later.” Don’t miss these 22 tips for having a safer vacation.
Situational awareness is your best strategy
Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert with Hotspot Shield, describes situational awareness as “being aware of every situation you are in, looking for anyone paying any unwanted attention to you, and understanding what’s going on 50 to 100 feet around the perimeter of your body at all times.” The better you understand your surroundings, the quicker you’ll notice someone or something out of place, including any suspicious looking characters.
Keep your pockets empty
While storing valuables in front pockets reduces the risk of them being taken, you can almost eliminate that risk by not putting anything in there at all. That means no phone, wallet, money, jewelry—anything you don’t want to get stolen should be kept in a closed bag, Ann says. Make sure you know the signs that a pickpocket is nearby, and take precautions so that the pocket that gets picked isn’t yours! As far as protecting what’s in your bag…
Zippers are the first line of defense
“I always look for a bag that has zippers so wandering hands can’t reach into my purse without me knowing,” Harms says. “Then, I always sling that bag over my body and keep my right hand firmly grasping the zipper. That way, it’s harder for thieves to unzip my purse. I don’t ever let go of my zipper in crowded areas and find that works to deter most pickpockets.”
We’ll fall for decoys
If you’re visiting a place that’s known for pickpockets or that has a high crime rate, Sage-Passant recommends carrying an old wallet with a few expired credit cards as a decoy. In the event of a mugging, you’ll have something to hand over and the thieves won’t take the time to check the expiration dates until you’re long gone. You should also know these 10 self-defense moves that can save your life.
Invest in anti-theft products
Pants specifically designed to deflect pickpockets? Yep, they exist. Aviator USA sells what USAToday called “the best travel jeans in the world,” and they may just be right. The pants have deep front pockets that can comfortably fit your phone or passport, have hidden zippered pockets inside back pockets, and feel comfortable enough to wear on a long flight.
An anti-theft purse is another secure and stylish way to be one step ahead of pickpockets. Harms recommends Arden Cove bags because they look like a normal purse and come with locking zippers, slash-resistant fabric, cut-proof straps, and RFID protection to prevent digital theft. Plus, they’re waterproof. “If this isn’t the holy grail of travel bags, I don’t know what is,” she says.
Don’t travel with things we could take
In reality, the only way to ensure your things don’t get stolen is to not carry them with you in the first place. “I have a rule that when I travel, I always parse out what I need and keep the rest of it locked in a safe,” Young says. “This can mean that I will only keep a drivers license and one credit card and just a bit of cash on me, in the event that if I lose it, I still have a backup card, more cash, and another ID (passport) in my hotel.” Next, make sure you know these 21 things a burglar won’t tell you.