How Pickpockets Work

BY Beth Williams

Pickpocketing has been around for years – and is something that every international traveler should at least think about so they don’t fall victim to one overseas.. While most always falling victim to a pickpocket does not involve violence, thieves that commit these crimes do so as they usually have little chance of getting caught.

Many times, most victims of pickpocketing usually don’t even know the theft had occurred until the thief is long gone, which makes the act so appealing to certain thieves.

Here are some of the common ways that pickpockets operate:

  • Pickpockets will use some type of emotion to engage the victim in a conversation.  They may say that they are looking for directions, or are lost.  They will use any time of conversation to engage the victim so they can get close to their wallet or purse.
  • Jackets and newspapers are another way that pickpockets use certain devices to help conceal their thefts, many times right in front of the victim’s eyes.
  • Multiple person distractions are another way.  Several thieves who look like fellow travelers or locals surround the victim and bump into them, sometimes they will “stop short” while walking in front of you, allowing a thief behind you to remove your wallet from your back pocket or purse when they bump into you from behind,oc

Common pickpocket locations

  • Around ATMs
  • Street fairs and other crowded open areas
  • Subways, specifically subway platforms and ticket machine locations
  • Entryways of businesses
  • Escalators
  • Crowded stairwells


Protecting Yourself from Pickpockets

It’s usually difficult to spot most pickpockets if you don’t know what to look for, however, there are a few things to look out for:

  • Someone causing a distraction, or if someone stops suddenly in from of you, or bumps into you from behind.
  • Never keep your valuables in a rear pocket, as that location is a pickpocket’s best friend.
  • If you have a purse, make sure you carry it in front of you, and not dangling behind.
  • pickpockets love to target backpacks that do not have secured zippers.


A variety of anti-pickpocketing products are available to help protect your valuables.
Visit to view some of these products.