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Which Purses Pickpockets Love To Pick

The best way to avoid a thief is to know how he or she thinks. Here is some friendly advice and tips from a thief who is now helping people avoid being victims. Read on to learn how pickpockets operate, which purses thieves like to steal from, as well as how thieves operate in various locations.

Which Type of Victims Pickpockets Like to Target

Obviously, pickpockets look for people who are either distracted or can be easily made so.  People on cell phones, with children, in loud groups, or others who just aren’t paying enough attention to the people around them often become victims.  People who just set down their stuff are favorites of pickpockets and thieves, because they are so easy to take advantage of (this section was moved from the end to the top for flow).

Purses That Pickpockets Love to Pick and Steal From

While there is really no purse that can’t be picked, or as some thieve call “dipped,” there are some purses and bags that are easier than others. Thieves look for the following bags. Knowing what a thief looks for will help you know what not to look for in a purse or bag. There are two main categories of purses: Danglers and Fixed. As the names imply, danglers hang from the body. Fixed bags, like fanny packs and backpacks, are carried in a more stationary position.

Dangler Purses 

Draw String Purse or Bag

The draw string purse is one of the easiest for pickpocket, some thieves are known to call it “the pickpocket’s best friend.”   Why is this? Simple mechanics really. In many cases drawstring purses are backpacks, which make the removing of items from within even simpler. These bags work by pulling the strings tighter to close the bag and loosening them to open it. Even the most unskilled theft can remove the wallet from one of these bags. Basically all a thief needs to do is grip the drawstring of the purse and pull down gently, which gets them into the bag.   These bags are very easy to enter.  There is no sound when they open, and very little movement is involved, which is great since it will leave the victim, or mark, which is the name some professional pickpockets call a victim, completely unaware that the thief just stole the mark’s wallet. The thief could be long gone before the wallet is discovered missing.

Flap Purse

The most beloved type of bag for a pickpocket. This type of purse usually contains one large pouch, covered by a flap that usually buttons shut. They come in all shapes and sizes, but thieves usually prefer the medium sized ones. The best part for a thief is often the button will be left undone, making it very easy to slip the wallet out with very little motion. However, if the flap purse is still vulnerable even with the button secured. A thief can get close enough to gently but firmly grip the button of the flap with his thumb and index finger and undo it, using his thumb to mask the sound. With a quick but easy motion of the hand, the wallet is gone.

Zipper Purse

Much like a flap purse, this one can be simple for a thief to conquer. A good thief will ease the zipper catchers instead of the tab to control the noise and quickly ease it back(re-write – weird sentence). After that the bag is easy pickings to ease the wallet out and move on. Zipper bags vary and sometimes have multiple pouches, so a thief will often watch to see which compartment the wallet is lodged.

Clutch Purse

This one can be tricky for thieves. Much like the shoulder bag this one is full of pockets and might not have a wallet at all. As always, a slow zip will lead the thief to what they want. If the bag is not on a strap then it is less appealing to a thief because a clutch purse has handles that a woman can hold on to. This means either a careful cut or a thief will wait until she sets it down.

Side Flap

A side flap purse is usually a medium to small purse that has one large compartment and one flap to close it up. This means one thin piece of fabric is all that is between your wallet and a thief, who can simply place his thumb over the clasp and then unbutton it. The real reason as to why this is on the list is because of the fact that while walking this type of purse tends to "slide" to the back of your hip, placing it right in front of a thief.

Dangler with a flap

A dangler with a flap is an eye catcher to a thief. The bag only has one large compartment, and can be easily opened without the victim noticing due to the fact that A: with a long strap there is less motion against her. And B: flap purse only have a latch before the thief can get his hands on your wallet.

Net Bags

These types of bags usually either have a flap or zipper, and sometimes both. The ones that have both aren’t that bad since the flap usually doesn’t have a button. A pickpocket will maneuver himself behind the intended victim and ease his hand under the flap, then unzip the bag. Net bags don’t make a lot of noise and sometimes tend to be bulky so the motion won’t be felt. A quick fish for the wallet and he’ll be on his way.

Open Topped Clutch Purse

A purse in the hand is obviously less appealing to a thief, although not impossible. However, when she sets it down, which happens often with a clutch purse, it is the easiest type of purse to steal a wallet from. It is small and its top is open to the world.

Large Shoulder Bag With Zipper

Normally shoulder bags are not a thief’s favorite purse in the world to steal from, but there a large one signals a good mark. Normal shoulder bags are small and wedge nicely under the woman’s arm, however there are some that are larger, which does two things to the bag. First, the grip on the bag is loose because the bag is bigger. Because it’s so large, she will tend to push the bag towards her back, leaving a large amount of zippered area as an invitation to a thief.

Shoulder Bag

This kind of bag is tricky, although sometimes the mark will add a longer strap to it making it, in effect, a dangler. Otherwise this sort of bag is firmly set in your mark’s armpit. Depending on the bag sometimes the top of this kind of purse is left open with no clasp, meaning the wallet is vulnerable if there is enough room at the top. Otherwise, an enterprising thief can use a box cutter to cut open the back of the bag and remove the wallet through the slit. Some women, rather than carry a wallet, use the pockets of these bags to carry money and cards. They usually keep these in an outer pocket that they can be easily accessed. Also stealing a cell phone from this kind of bag is a snap since the pouch for it is usually right on the back.  Here are a few travel handbags that have built-in anti-theft features to keep out pickpockets.

Fixed Bags

Fanny Pack

security waist pack, security fannypack, pacsafe, pac Safe, stashsafe 100, stash safe, 100This one is just as easy as picking a pocket, cause it actually is. Best part of all for a thief, it is a removable pocket. A thief will simply press up against the mark, unbuckle the pack, and either make tracks or pass it off. Sometimes, much like with wallets, the mark will still "feel" the bag so they won’t even know. Otherwise, thieves look for ones worn slightly to either side, then, masking their hand, unzip the large compartment slowly and remove the cash or wallet.  On the flip side, a fanny pack or waist pack is also a great way to carry your camera and other items you dont want to put in you pocket or carry by hand, however a traveler should be aware that there are several security waist packs and security fanny packs on the market that have built-in anti-pickpocket features that help keep your valuables safe.

Security waist pack features such as security zippers to stop a pickpocket from unzipping the waist packs zipper without your knowledge, wire embedded into the back strap to stop someone from cutting the rear strap from behind, as well as metal mesh embedded into the material to stop bag cutters are just a few of the security features you can find in these security fanny packs which can be found here.

Shoulder Drawstring

A shoulder drawstring has the disadvantages of a dangler and a drawstring bag. They usually aren’t oversized and a thief can find what he’s looking for lightening fast. They rarely have a hood or a second method of protection. A thief will simply stand just behind or to the side of his mark, grip the drawstring carefully and then gently pull down. The bag is open and the wallet is vulnerable, and gone within seconds.


A thief really needs two things to handle backpacks. Proximity and the ability to quickly find the wallet. Most backpacks have a drawstring and a button, and pickpockets will often look for one with the button undone.  Several backpacks are made which have features which help keep your valuables safe when carried in a backpack, here is a sampling of security backpacks.

Back Pack Purse

Here is another pickpocket dream come true, a woman’s purse completely beyond the owner’s field of vision. Most backpack purses open with a clap, same as a flap, but there are some with straps or drawstrings or both. A pickpocket will wait until the victim is right in front of him, then gently unbuckle the strap or loosen the drawstring, which will open the purse wide. If done gently and quick enough the mark won’t notice because the back has fewer nerve endings than anywhere else. A quick search for the wallet often leaves a woman without her wallet.

Small Backpack Purse

Now any thief can tell you that a backpack purse is an easy target. But a small one is best. Backpacks are easy to open and get into, but sometimes they can be impossibly large and have way too many pockets and openings. Unless a thief is willing to follow his mark for a while how will he know where the wallet is? Most simply target the smaller ones, which usually tend to either be black or brown leather (which also makes sliding the wallet out easier) and are worn either on one shoulder or both. These tend to have one large pocket and one little pocket. Women who carry a wallet tend to put theirs in the big pocket and those who don’t tend to put cash and cards in the small one. But in either case, it is easier to locate the goods in a smaller bag.  If you are one who likes to carry a small backpack style purse, you many want to carry one that has built in anti-pickpocket features like ones featured here.

Small Backpack

Thieves also favor small backpacks because they are easy to open, out of their owner’s sight. Again, the lack of contact with the body and the lower density of nerves in the back make it an appealing target. It’s also small enough to get in and find the wallet quickly.

Unattended Bags

A thief will consider any bag or purse away from its owner as fair game. There are several places where this happens, such as in stores where a woman will leave her cart for a few moments or pull it behind her as she moves, in restaurants when the woman either slings the bag from the back of her chair or puts it on the floor, in theaters where she might actually put it under the seat, or anything left in a car.


Jacket Pockets

Anything of value seen hanging out of a jacket pocket will soon vanish, and the easiest target is loose cash. Wallets are just as easily plucked out, as well as iPods, cell phones, or anything else that might be there.

Back Pockets

Anything carried in a back pocket can be stolen, however there are a few types (types of what – pockets I think) thieves favor. Carpenter pants because they have wide, shallow back pockets which have easy access, buttoned and unbuttoned slack pockets because they are just like a flap dangler, baggy jeans, and men who allow part of their wallet to stick out above their pants.

Top Ruses Which Pickpockets Use to Steal Purses

Kick the Purse

When a woman sits down at a table or bar she’ll often set the bag on a nearby chair or on the floor beside of her. If it’s on the floor, a thief will wait until she is engrossed in either talking or eating. He (refer to he’s as the thief or purse theif) will then casually walk past her table and gently kick the purse away from the table with his foot. Then he’ll pick it up and tuck it away or if the thief is a female, sling it over her shoulder like it is hers. Small bags are usually taken this way.

Gas Station Ruse

Lots of women are victims of scam artists at gas stations. Their car is usually unlocked and they are facing the pump, not watching their valuables. Thieves have perfected a few rip offs at gas stations. The first is simply to open a woman’s car door while she is looking at the pump. The second is to steal her bag while she runs in quickly to pay. The third is to involve her in a distraction, either trouble with the pump, or to ask for directions. While she is distracted, an accomplice steals the bag from the car.

The Swarm

A team will work together, usually in a crowded city with tourists. They learn the lay of the land, the escape routes, the areas that tourists are distracted. Spreading out over key vantage points, one will alert the others when a mark is spotted. You won’t even know it is coming as you consult your map or take a photo. A few people will bump into you while talking loudly, and the next thing you’ll know is that your wallet, purse, or passport are stolen.

Set Mommy Up

A thief thinks of taking your possessions as a job. He probably tells himself that anyone who would be careless with their money or purse or wallet doesn't deserve them. Some of them target playgrounds or other areas kids congregate (rewrite to playground areas where mothers take their children.) They (the purse thief )will look for two moms talking, and do something to make the children cry. Maybe take the child’s ball or throw sand on them. They know the mother’s instinct for her child is greater than for her purse or shopping bags. Once the mom or moms rush over, the thieves will help himself to their wallet or bags, fading quickly out of sight.

Restroom Snatch

Have you ever noticed that purse hooks in restrooms are up high on the door? This gives easy access for a female thief to reach over the stall and be gone before you can react, throwing your purse over her shoulder like it belongs to her. Another alternative is to take the wallet out, quickly throw the purse back over the stall, startling the woman. Thirdly, a female thief can place the purse in a store shopping bag, and walk nonchalantly among the shoppers.

Out of the Blue

Densely populated cities, especially in Italy, and are known for the occasional but shocking slash and grab theft from mopeds or bikes. The simply use of a swift moving bike to rush up behind the victim and snatch her bag on the way by. They look for a woman walking near the edge of the sidewalk with her purse on her shoulder.  As the thief drives by the victim, coming from behind, he grabs the purse off the shoulder and speeds away.  Some thieves have been known to have an accomplice who rides on the back of the motorbike and it is their job to complete the purse snatching, leaving the driving to the other thief.  In some shocking cases, they even use a knife to slash the strap. The key to this type of theft is the thief will focus their attention on victims who carry a purse over their shoulder, walking with the flow of traffic so they cannot anticipate a thief riding the bike up behind them.

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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.