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Common Pickpocket Techniques
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The bump and lift
The mind can only focus and do one thing at a time; example, count to 10 and half way through while still trying to count to 10 in your head shout orange out loud. You'll notice that as soon as you shouted out orange you lost concentration with the counting; still not convinced? Then sit yourself down and hold one of your legs out in front of you and one of your arms out in front of you, now start making circles with your arm, now after a while try to make a circle with your leg at the same time, but in anti clockwise instead of clockwise like your arm. you'll see it's impossible, that's how the brain works though. We don't use much of our brain at all.

So if the brain can only focus on one thing at once then this gives Pickpockets plenty of time to bump up and lift their wallet while they're too distracted or focused on what happened.

This is easier to do if they're walking in the opposite way as their mark (victim).  The pickpocket simply bumps into them "by accident" to make the mark's focus change while they bump out their wallet far enough for them to lift out. While they're bumping into them they can either quickly dip into their pocket and take the goods or push the wallet further out the pocket with their hand while they bump into them and then lift it after wards.

This is a combination of Distraction and Misdirection, because as the pickpocket bumps into you, your brain for a short period time becomes disorientated as your focus sharply changes from one thing to another, and also confuses you for a split second, giving the pickpocket plenty of time to make the lift. By the time your attention's on the pickpocket he's apologized and walked away with your wallet. The misdirection is that he bumped into you by accident and your wallet is fine.

The bump, grab and slip
Pickpockets find someone standing still but ready to go on the move (a good example here would be a line of people leaving a movie theater, this is good because it's still relatively dark even though the movie has finished), an escalator is a good one too. Pickpockets simply bump into the back of their mark and apologize, while doing this they bump the wallet out the pocket a little bit; if it's in a side pocket then they use their thumb and middle finger to widen the pocket more for them to pull it out a little bit more. Now all they do is simply hold onto the wallet with their thumb and index finger on the tip of it and let the mark themselves detach themselves from the wallet as they walk away.

Pressure Distraction

People are sensitive to touch, that's a fact, its one of our major senses. However pickpockets utilize this to their advantage. Even though we are sensitive to touch, if you are constantly touched in the same general area such as the arm you start to become a little insensitive and unaware of it happening. Pickpockets grab the marks arm which is closest to their wallet and apply slight pressure to it, which distracts the marks attention to the arm, and makes them unaware that their wallet has just been lifted as they focusing 100% on their arm.

Those are the 3 main and most common techniques used for pickpocketing however they are many more advanced methods that you have to watch out for - such as:

Fake Lift

This technique is very simple, but very very clear so you have to be careful and keep an eye on your belongings. Pickpockets have come up with a idea based entirely on misdirection. What happens is the "fake pickpocket" tries to lift something from the mark but fails on purpose and the marks attention is admittedly drawn to the situation, accusing the mark of pickpocketing even though nothing has been taken. During this time his partner the "Real" pickpocket walks past the mark and makes the actual lift while the mark is focused on the "Fake".

If you are ever in this situation, If you think you've been pickpocketed, quickly check all of your belongings and nothing is gone swiftly move on before the secondary pickpocket can make the move.

Pickpocket Video


All a run is an accomplice to the pickpocket, his job is to be given the lifted valuables and run -simple as that.  Right after a lift, the valuables are either passed or thrown to the runner, so to avoid any linkage to the actually theft.

Compassion Techniques

This is when pickpockets rely on the marks compassion for others to allow them to make the lift. It's an extremely dangerous and deceitful form and hard to spot.

Some pickpockets play on compassion in their distractions. They "accidentally" drop change or shopping bags on the ground so that someone will stop to help them. While the mark is kneeling on the ground with the first pickpocket, another member of the team steals his or her wallet. At the beach, one member of the team may pretend to be in trouble in the water. When the mark runs in to help out, another member of the team walks off with whatever the mark has left on the beach.

Distraction Techniques

Human beings usually focus their attention on one thing, so if you give them anything interesting to focus on, they won't pay attention to their money and valuables.

In the pickpocketing world, distraction can get pretty elaborate. Two members of a team might stage a fight while the third member takes advantage of the inattentive crowd. Child pickpockets may try to show something to a mark, like a drawing or a toy, while other children sneak up from behind. Another common trick is to surreptitiously spray someone with bird droppings, or a convincing facsimile, and then offer to help clean it off.

Another common distraction techniques is sex - the use of a young attractive men or women to avert the attention on to the mark, focusing the thoughts on him/her.  An example may be an attractive woman, usually pretending to be drunk, will touch an unsuspecting man affectionately, and lift his wallet or watch while he's distracted, also psychologically it seems that attractive people are less likely to be suspected of a small crime, due to their looks the mark wants to believe it they aren't involved, and without knowing it they convince themselves their innocent.

Ops, Sorry

This is a classic technique, and this usually requires the pickpocket spilling something (usually hot) on the mark.  In the pretense of helping the mark clean themselves, the pickpocket is provided an excellent opportunity to take the mark's wallet or other valuables.


In this case te Pickpocket will of course "accidentally" knock off the marks glasses, suitcase, hat, or anything else.  This will serve to both infuriate and disorient the victim, so will wallet can easily be lifted.

Turnstile Jam

This is a very common distraction theft that occurs at subway turnstiles around the world - but especially in European tourist destinations.  As you go to pass thru a subway turnstile,  someone presses in right behind you. You feel something in your pocket, but by the time you turn around, it’s already too late – the thief throws your wallet to his accomplice on the other side of the machine, or to the thief right behind him/her. You’re stuck on the wrong side of the turnstile, and both thieves have disappeared into the crowd.

Misdirection Techniques

Misdirection itself is a complicated concept and has very powerful psychological effects and is also used by magicians to do what seems impossible, when in reality it never even happened in the first place, but you were just lead to believe that it happened.

Misdirection has become a pickpockets best friend, and more and more elaborate misdirection techniques are made every day, and to an unsuspecting mark, dangerous.

My Wallet's Been Stolen!!

You are in an underground subway when you hear someone shouted "My wallet's been stolen."   You quickly check your wallet to make sure its still there, and your attention is diverted towards the girl whose wallet's been taken suddenly who bump into the person in front of who and knock them over, who try and help them up, when someone from behind bumps into you, you turn around, no-ones there, you go back to help the person up but two more people bump into you, you start to become a little suspicious, you see someones hand move in a straight line towards your pocket they walk past, you suspecting they've taken your wallet chase after them, when you catch them it turns out they were just shaking their hand to get water off it, you leave only to find not only has your wallet been stolen but your keys, bag, watch, rings have all been taken.

This is a classic misdirection technique employed by freelance pickpockets and groups. It will always be a pickpocket who shouts "My wallet has been stolen", but why would they want to draw attention to this?

It's simple really by shouting that, everyone in that room will immediately become suspicious and will check that all there valuables are still there. This is a pickpockets heaven! Everyone in the room has just revealed the exact location of their valuables! You've just done 70% of a pickpockets work for him, well done.

"Your attention is diverted towards the girl whose wallet's been taken suddenly who bump into the person in front of who and knock them over" It's natural for your attention to be diverted towards this person, as its in our nature to be curious. But this gives Pickpockets a indication that your not 100% focusing on what your doing and therefore vulnerable. The person who knocked over would of course be a pickpocket who purposely stopped suddenly to bump into you, thus sending your brain into a spontaneous mess and distracting you, whilst another pickpocket lifts some valuables off you from behind.

Guess Who?!

Involves the pickpocket approaching the mark, and placing their hands round the marks eyes and shouting "Guess who!", obviously at the same time removing the contents of their pockets. When the mark turns round surprised and infuriated the Pickpockets will be very apologetic and seem very embarrassed followed by the words, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry I thought you were my Brother, Sister, Dad, Uncle, etc" and humbly walks away.

Hand Movements

It's known that there are only two movements your can make with your arm, the are linear and circular motion - i.e moving your arm in a straight line and at a rounded angle. Because of they way our mind works, we are alot more likely to notice a sharp linear motion then, a slower circular one. This is because it's in our instinctive nature as millions of years ago, humans would of been alerted to sharp linear movements as a safety mechanism to alert our attention to fast moving predators.

Pickpockets knowing this often will use sharp sudden hand movements in the direction of your pocket, alerting your attention to it, while they lift something out of your bag or back pocket with their free hand. The sharp movement is to get your attention but it will always be disguised an innocent everyday action such as just shaking their hand, lighting a cigarette etc.

Pocket Lifts

Pocket lifts are usually done quickly and forcefully, but covered up with a collision of body's or another distraction. It's a lot more difficult to lift the wallet out slowly and timidly.
It's also rare for a pickpocket to just lift the wallet out in one move, usually they will have several attempts to raise it further out of your pocket this can be done by prying the pocket open with their index and forefinger, or kneeing the marks back pocket, only once it's clearly visible from the top of the pocket will it be snatched.


This is a method used by Pickpockets to raise the contents of the marks front pockets to the top. The pickpocket will gently tug on the inner lining of the pocket, just enough for the contents of the pocket to become visible to grab.

A pickpocket grabs the inner lining of the pocket and slowly lifts it up, causing the pocket rise up as well any money or valuables you might have in there. Reefing is generally only used on a baggier, lighter trousers as its much easier to grab and move the lining that it with say.. jeans


Some Pickpockets will resort to razor blades, not in a threatening manner but small razor blades which allow the pickpocket to cut a pocket to loosen it up, or cut it even more so the contents of the pocket just fall in the pickpockets hands. The pickpocket will often only cut a small cut along your pocket to loosen it up, although a few pickpockets will cut off your entire pocket. Although many pickpockets will avoid blades it's believed to be a very crude method and only a very small amount of pickpockets will use a small razor.

Such methods are as follows: A Pickpocket will use half a razor blade, with the bottom half wrapped in tape, as a tool to cut a square out of your pocket, causing your valuables to just fall straight into the pickpocket's hands. Although this method is very tricky and very hard for a Pickpocket to conceal.

Other versions may involve a pickpocket who uses a simply modified razor blade to cut a straight line from the top all the way down the center.  If the valuables don't fall straight out, a pickpocket will easily lift it with any complications. Problems with this is that the cut is made against the wallet, which means it's very likely you wont feel a thing, and it's also a much quicker process only lasting around 20 seconds.

Protecting Your Pockets

Wearing a coat, jacket, shirt anything that covers your pockets is likely to put off a potential pickpocket, as it makes accessing your pocket a lot more difficult to do without drawing your attention to it. Also putting your wallet in your front pocket, then putting your hands in your pocket makes the chance of you being pick-pocketed slight. Pickpockets will always stay clear of you if your hands are in your pockets, simple really. 

Jacket Pockets

Inner Pocket

A Pickpocket will rarely bother to pickpocket the Inner pocket unless they have seen something valuable there, or If he cant see any valuables in any other pockets they can deduct that they are located in the inner jacket pocket.
Firstly the Pickpocket will have to determine which pocket the wallet lies and to do this they will use a techniques known as "Fanning" which can include the pickpocket bumping into you with their palms pressed against your lower chest where the inner pockets would be. Another method can be when a pickpocket asks if you can change a twenty etc, so you pull out your wallet to help him out, thus revealing the location to him.

However It's common knowledge among professional pickpockets that a left-handed man will keep his wallet in the right inner pocket while a right-handed man keeps it in the left. So if your right handed, put your wallet in the right pocket, will be that bit safer

Stealing from an inner pocket requires the use of misdirection, as the pickpocket needs to divert your attention, thus causing you to turn your head, so you cant catch the pickpocket in your peripheral vision.

You've got something on your shoulder, Sir

Pickpockets will purposely spill something on the marks shoulder (The opposite one to the wallets location), then tell the mark about it, as the mark brushes it off his arm will conceal any movement the pickpocket makes.

Kissing the Dog

This is a drunken routine pulled by pickpockets where they will walk into you head on, using his body to cover any movements his makes to your jacket pockets. As a jacket lift require the marks attention to be re-diverted, pickpockets will often say things like "Hey isn't he *****(insert famous name)*** or "Oh my god that planes going to crash" etc

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.