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Pickpocket Prevention Infomation - How to Outfox the Fox by Being a Difficult Target

Being a Difficult Target – Make it hard for pickpockets and sneak thieves to get to your valuables

Pickpockets have been around for as long as anyone can remember - and that's because pickpockets are usually successful due to travelers not being aware of their tricks.  The following are just a few tips to help being targeted by pesky pickpockets who can ruin your trip - especially when traveling overseas where if you fall victim to a pickpocket, can really put a kink in your trip.  Unless of course, you look forward to hanging out in a foreign police station making a police report with someone who may not speak English, then trying to find a U.S consulate to help replace you passport, as well as countless hours calling your credit card companies trying to cancel your credit cards and get replacements.

Video of Pickpocket who steals a woman's Purse

Don't advertise what's in your pocket

Have you ever noticed that most men carry their wallets in their right back pocket, and that keys and cigarette lighters are generally kept in the front pockets? All a professional needs to do is determine how your items are stowed and they're off to snag their prize. This may seem trivial but the position of your items will determine the technique that the perpetrator will use. Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket. Keep it in an inside pocket or securely wrap money underneath your clothing. More to the point, when you're out only bring the bare essentials with you, whenever possible. Consider using a wallet which holds your phone - there are several companies that make these now with one being the CM4s Q Card Case Wallet for iPhone 4/4S.  It protects your iPhone - which you should have your app "Find My iPhone" activated. This app works so that in case of theft, the phone is backed up through cloud computing).  This specific phone/wallet case can hold up to three cards and cash. (For Android users, try "Where's My Droid"

Walk with Purpose and Keep Moving

Pickpockets have to choose someone to pickpocket.  While their acts may seem random to some, most pickpockets - if not all - have a selection process that they use to select someone to pickpocket.  Typically pickpockets find that someone they feel would be a good victim would display confused looks and/or hesitant steps, typical when a traveler is in a new destination.  This is almost always a dead giveaway of a tourist who has recently arrived in a new city that they are unfamiliar with.  Another obvious give-a-way is someone who has a map visible - another top indicators of a distracted person and therefore a good target.  To counter this type of indicator, take the time before you leave a safe area (a restaurant, your hotel, the train platform) to check your surroundings and directions before heading out. Perhaps write a few key indications (direction and street names) on a post-it for quick reference.

If you have to look at a map or stare at a landmark, consider stopping somewhere where you can put you back up against a wall or some other object which would prevent a pickpocket or group of gypsy kids from surrounding you.  If this is not available, consider moving to a wide open space where anyone approaching me can be seen.  When viewing a map, consider ducking into a store for directions or to consult your map.  You should also be alert to how new technology can really help in this area - if you have to stop and map-check, try using a mobile device instead of a map.  Many new smart phone applications have It’s a little less obvious and you’re a few clicks away from dialing an emergency number if something happens.

Be Unpredictable

If you suspect you are being followed or targeted by a pickpocket, change directions, stop and go in a different direction, or cross the street. Enter into the nearest shop for a few minutes to collect yourself and perhaps to make them lose interest. Pickpockets love metro, train, or bus stations because people entering and exiting them are very concentrated on getting to their next destination, and their paths are obvious.

Don’t Stop to Talk or Answer Questions from Strangers

Chances are, you look like a tourist more than you would like to, and pickpockets have learned how to recognize a potential victim.   It is very unlikely someone will need to stop you and ask for directions or assistance in English if you are in a foreign country. In all actuality, a thief already can tell you are a tourist and they may use the age old distraction of asking for directions to create a distraction in order to distract your attention so a partner of the thief can possibly remove something from you during this moment of inattention. We all want to be compassionate and help others, but when you are vulnerable with luggage and finding your way, think of yourself first. Walk with purpose.

Proud to be an American?

Some travelers worry about being pegged as an American when they travel. They think it makes them a target, both for pickpockets and petty thieves, and to most times they are right.  Pickpockets, as well as law enforcement around the world will always tell you that Americans, and most westerners for that matter, most always carry the best and most expensive items that pickpockets love to steal - and many times, tend to be the most oblivious to the above safety precautions.   Where we are going with this is that when traveling overseas, if you don't want to stand out like a sore thumb to a thief, don't where shirts or jackets with USA emblems.  Now I am one proud American, but when it comes to being targeted by a thief , that's I need to make sure I am not drawing attention to myself.

DON'T GET FOOLED BY DIVERSIONS

Professional pickpockets are known to use a variety of diversions in order to steal your valuables.  Techniques such as swarming, spilling and flashing are the most common tactics (especially overseas) used by pickpockets to distract travelers. Sometimes diversions can get very elaborate and over the top, such as a staged fight.

When Traveling in Groups, Designate Lookouts

When you are traveling alone, you may feel vulnerable because you are solo, but in groups pickpockets can take advantage of the confusion to pick on your most distracted members and usually the most vulnerable person of your group. To avoid these types of thefts and diversions, if you're shopping or traveling with a group of people consider designating someone from your group or family to keep an eye on your surroundings. Keep the more susceptible members of your group on the inside and the more attentive members at the back. Consider asking a member of your group who is planning to sit out, and can therefore concentrate on his surroundings, to keep an extra eye out. Keep the weaker members of your group in the middle when walking somewhere and those more attentive in the back.

Protecting Your Belongings – Make it Difficult to get to Your Stuff

When carrying a purse or travel bag, wear the flap against your body and keep a hand on it

It is strongly suggested that if you have to travel with a purse or travel bag, consider one that has locking zippers or other security features designed to prevent pickpockets from stealing items from within it.  If you don't want to buy a travel security purse or security travel bag, may sure that you only carry a bag or purse that has a single zippered entry, preferably one which also has a flap that covers the zipper, in order to make it more difficulty for a pickpocket to remove something.   Make sure you carry the the purse or bag in front of you, so you can keep an eye on the entry point.  Carrying a day-pack or messenger bags on your back are also targeted by pickpockets because they are easy to enter from the rear when carried in busy and crowded locations like subways and buses.  Consider viewing a wide variety of security purses, bags, day packs, and other unique anti-pickpocket bags in any of the categories found here for additional protection.

While drinking or eating outside, NEVER put your purse/bag on the ground or hang it on the chair behind you.

Countless travelers have had their purses, travel bags, day packs, or camera bags stolen while dining - especially when using outside sidewalk cafes or other locations which have a high rate of foot traffic that may pass your table or chair.  Put your bag on your lap or on the table if it’s a small purse or bag.  Better yet, consider of the many security travel bags which have detachable shoulder straps that allow you to quickly secure your bag to your chair or table such as these. If you don't want to buy a security  bag, carry a purse or bag that has a longer shoulder strap so you can hang it off your knee.  It may be a little uncomfortable, but having your bag stolen is more uncomfortable. 

Another option is to use a purse hook or purse hanger - a bag security device which has been around for years.  A purse hanger hangs your bag directly from your table so you can see it - but it’s not on the ground. You could also use it to hang a shopping bag.  A new version of the purse hanger allows you to clip a new style of purse hanger on the outside strap of your bag, so it is always quickly available.  The older style of purse hooks always seem to get lost in the bottom of your bag - which causes many travelers never to use it.  If you have no other option, consider the tried and true tip of putting your bag's strap under one leg of your chair.

Don’t keep important things in ANY outside pockets in your suitcase, jacket, or purse.

If you have to give pickpockets access to something (you have too much luggage or several bags) make sure it’s not worth taking. Keep underwear in outside luggage pockets and not important documents. Use inside pockets of jackets and purses that have a zipper and/or button to hold important documents, and take advantage of clothing layers to keep your documents buried as much as possible.

Use a Money Belt

This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to lower the impact of a pickpocket. Use a money belt to keep your passport, extra credit cards and cash safe and out of sight. Keep that day’s cash and a credit card in your day purse/wallet for easy access. If you must get into your money belt, do it in a safe area like a bathroom stall or changing room. Getting into your money belt to make regular purchases is not an effective use of it and draws attention to where you store your money. Their are a variety of money belts to choose from today that are designed for a variety of wearing options - consider any of these money belts or security pouches to keep your valuables secure.

If you prefer to carry a money belt and/or passport holder, make sure you don’t advertise where it is. Many times you can see tourists walking around with a very visible passport holder bouncing freely under their t-shirt, or with the neck cord poking out and trailing down their back.  If you have your heart set on a neck wallet, consider a security neck wallet like this one that features a wire embedded into the neck strap.  The same concept is also made in a security waist wallet like this one so you can actually wear it around your waist, tucked into your pants.  Other options include the traditional money belt version or a variety of leg wallets and belt loop wallets like those featured here.

Bring the Bare Essentials When You Can

If you have a good base location such as a hotel or a friend’s house, why not lighten up what you’re carrying with you when going shopping, walking in crowded markets or areas? Some reputable hotels also offer safe services for valuables.

Using Public Transportation – Stay Balanced and Aware

Pickpockets are counting on your being unbalanced, distracted and crowded on public transportation. If you can, read about certain buses or public transportation that are most used by tourists – these are usually a pickpocket dream.

Stand defensive and prepared.

Swing any backpacks around to the front of your body and put your arms through the straps to keep your hands free. Not only will this help you keep an eye on it, it will make you more appreciated by regular riders as backpacks usually swing into people and take up more room.  Make sure all you tie all cords hanging off your backpack and secure all zippers together so they are harder to open. If rolling a piece of luggage, place it in front of you between you and your handhold, as close to a wall as possible.

Keep the right hands occupied, and the right hands free.

Keep a hand on your purse and close to your body and the other hand to stabilize your body while the public transportation is in motion. Don’t hold on with the same arm that should be protecting your bag! To further stabilize yourself, if you can’t get a seat, make sure to center your body in front of the pole, seat or other handhold so you won’t be thrown off-balance. Stand with your knees slightly bent to react with turns and bumps. Angle one foot in the direction of the braking action (forward for example).

Don't stand near the door of buses, subway or metro cars.

Do not stand near the doorway of the bus or subway train. This is especially true if you feel that a person is (oddly) blocking your way and keeping you from further entering or exiting.  As soon as the doors-closing-beep starts, thieves who are one your same train or metro car have been know to quickly dash past you and out the door, grabbing your purse, daypack, travel bag, or even your wallet on the way out.

A FINAL NOTE

All of these precautions are not to make you so paranoid on your next trip that you won’t enjoy it! But once learned, they can only add to your awareness when in unfamiliar situations. Use your instincts and a little common sense to avoid being a victim, so you can enjoy the sights and beauty of trip.

Our site contains over 100 pages of travel safety tips and security tips that are useful for any traveler. You will find tips involving luggage theft, avoiding pickpockets, laptop theft, hotel burglary, and airplane, train, automobile, and boat travel crimes.