How Purse Thieves Work

BY Beth Williams

Purse thieves and pickpockets have been around since purses were first made and is a crime that every woman should be alert to, as having your purse stolen or picked, especially overseas, can become a vacation-ruining experience.

Here are a few ideas to help you better protect your purse from being stolen, snatched, or your wallet lifted out of it. First,  you need to know that most pickpockets and purse thieves don’t feel guilty or sorry about stealing. It’s their philosophy that their victims were careless and it is their obligation to take advantage of the opportunity to steal. It’s just business to them, it’s not personal. So where to begin – let’s start with the identification process of the victim.

What Purse Thieves Look For

  • A woman who drapes her purse on the back of a chair or on the floor beside of her.
  • A woman whose wallet is sticking out of her purse.
  • A woman who leaves her purse or wallet in a shopping cart.
  • A purse or bag left in an unlocked car.
  • A woman who has set her purse or wallet down on a table or counter.
  • Purses left in unattended offices or dressing rooms.
  • Purses and coats dangling on coat racks.

The best target is a woman alone with a dangling purse or one she is not paying much attention to. A simple snatch isn’t difficult to set up; the hard part is the waiting involved. There are three different kinds of purse theft:

Snatch and Run Purse Thefts:

Boiled down to basics you can just grab the purse from your mark and run off with it. Simple, effective, and not very creative. This is the most recognizable version of snatch theft; known at large as purse snatching. This is for more daring thieves.

Dip and Lift:

This is very simple pickpocketing theft when the thief dips down and removes something from an “open” purse – usually the wallet or cell phone.

Sneak and Stash Purse Theft:

This is also a form of pickpocketing; more commonly know to the world and sneak thieving or opportunistic pickpocketing.

What Purse Thieves Look For:

We’ve all seen the woman who leaves her purse in her car, or unattended in the grocery store, and the man who puts his wallet in his jacket pocket or in a baggy back pocket so wide you could stick your whole hand in. But going back to the woman in the grocery store, well there are several ways to help her redistribute the wealth.

The most common scenario involving a grocery store, or any store for that matter, is as followings; the thief sees a woman checking out something in the aisle, completely turning her back on her purse that is temptingly sitting there in her shopping cart. While she is distracted gives the perfect time for the purse thief to strike, either taking just the wallet or by taking the whole bag. Just taking the wallet gives the thief more time to get away, compared to taking your whole purse which is more noticeable.

Methods and Techniques Used By Purse Thieves and Purse Pickpockets

Purse theives pickpockets

Kick the Purse

When a woman sits down at a table or bar she will usually put her purse down on the floor. This is where the thief will simply get close to the victim and kick the purse out of her view so it can be easily taken without her knowledge. A variation on this theme is he may even say “oh pardon me” reach down to slide your bag back into place while simultaneously helping himself to your wallet from your unzip bag.

What Time is it?

This is a common distraction which requires a team of thieves to execute.  One thief engages you in a conversation by asking you the time or how to get to a certain location.  As you get involved in the conversation, the second thief will usually be behind you and steal your purse while you’re distracted by the kind tourist or local engaging you in a chat.

Chair Method

This is a very common theft – and one that every woman knows – the thief simply removes your purse from the back of your chair – Never place your purse in this location where someone can remove your purse without your knowledge.

So what should you do? Travel with a purse that has a few built-in anti-theft features and use them. We like locking zippers to keep pesky pickpockets out and we also purse straps that detach on one side of the bag so that you wrap the strap through a chair back or around a table leg in effect tethering the bag to the stationary item.

Stop thieves and pickpockets with a security travel hand bag