Italy: Pickpocket Scams in Venice

BY Beth Williams

Venice is a great “don’t miss” city in Italy, but it’s also where pickpockets prey on tourists. Like tourists, pickpockets love Venice, too. The allure of Venice with its great history, art, beautiful sights, and of course, gondolas attract tourists and tourists attract pickpockets, scam artists, and street thieves; the more tourists there are, the more pickpockets there are.  After the summer months, Carnival is the next popular time of year when pickpocketing increases with the increase of tipsy, foreign visitors. Here’s a quick read to help you avoid pickpocket scams and tourist scams in Venice, Italy.

Pickpocket Scams Are A Part of Venice Italy

The most popular areas for tourists to visit are where you could most likely fall victim to a pickpocket, as they love crowds to get lost in once they’ve committed their crime. The following are the most common locations where you need to keep your guard up and above all guard your valuables by using anti-theft travel gear like a hidden money belt or a backpack with lock-down zippers to keep thieving hands. Armed with some street smarts and the right travel gear you’ll be relaxed and able to enjoy your time in Venice, Italy.

The Most Common Locations for Pickpockets to Prey on Tourists

The most popular locations for pickpockets have a few things in common. The locations all have crowds and many distracted tourists enjoying the sites.

  • Piazza di San Marco
  • Academia Museum
  • the Rialto Bridge
  • smaller crowded bridges
  • crowded narrow streets
 avoid tourist scams in Venice , pickpockets st marks square

St Mark’s Square – The most visited tourist location in Venice

The Most Common Types of Theft Committed Against Tourists Involve

  1. Distractions: An example is someone close to you creates a sudden distraction such as asking the time or for directions. We’ve seen staged shouting matches between a woman and a man designed to distract you while your pocket is picked.  If this happens, this could be a setup for someone getting ready to steal your wallet or valuables as you turn your attention to the distraction.
  2. Back pocket wallet thefts are very common in Venice. Outsmart these thieves with an under clothing money belt for travel that safeguards your money, credit cards, and passport.

Pickpocket Scams on Venice Water Bus or also Known as Vaporetto

Since the canals are the main transportation in Venice, many travelers use water taxis as transportation. These water taxis are known by several names including public boats, water buses, or in Italian – “Il Vaporetto” or “Motoscafi.” While these boats run almost constantly, the Vaporetto is usually overcrowded and people are jammed in like sardines, which is why it is favored by pickpockets.  The pickpockets know tourists love to ride on these boats. So pickpockets too love the boats.

 avoid tourist scams in Venice, pickpockets rialto bridge, venice italy

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal

A Few Tips to Avoid Pickpockets While Riding on Venice Water Taxis

  1. The standard water bus or autobus fare is a rather steep € 6,00 for the popular lines on the Grand Canal.
  2. The Vaporetto (waterbus) that travels between the Academia and Rialto boat debarkation stops is known to be a favorite of tourists and pickpockets alike. When the Vaporetto is full on a rainy day, the commotion of passengers entering and disembarking creates an ideal situation for thieves to add luggage or a few wallets to their collections.
  3. Pickpockets look for those who get caught in the crowd rushing toward the water taxi embarkation ramps.
  4. Venice pickpockets are also known to take advantage of those waiting in line to get onto a water ferry.  Depending on the time of day, the lines can be very long and pickpockets have been known to work their way into the crowd.
  5. Be careful if you are parking at the Tronchetto and want to ride the public Vaporetto boat into Venice. Men have been known to surround travelers and told where to walk.  Many of these people will not direct you to the right place – they will direct you to the private taxi boats and not the public Vaporetto dock. There you will be over-charged.
Venice Water Taxi, avoid pickpocket and tourist scams in Venice

A Vaporetto is a water taxi and Vence’s major from of public transportation

Most tourists fall victim to pickpockets during the height of the travel season – summer – where skilled Venice pickpockets take advantage of overcrowded water taxis. However, rainy days are also common times when pickpockets seem to strike travelers more since the water taxis are packed to the gills with travelers. Avoid pickpockets and tourist scams in Venice by guarding your valuables with anti-theft travel wallets, money belts, and bags.

Protect your credit cards and money with an anti-theft travel wallet. This is a favorite one for men, make sure you use the belt loop attachment feature, while many women prefer this style of travel wallet and purse, it fits a passport and most phones.

Once pickpockets have stolen a wallet, many drop the stolen wallet(s) in mailboxes around the city – keeping only the cash. Identification and credit cards not belonging to them make it easier to catch these thieves; therefore many of these items are not valuable for particular pickpockets. The postal service then delivers the abandoned wallets to the local police. The police only return a missing wallet if someone comes looking for it.

Always try to avoid pickpocket scams and tourist scams in Venice by staying slightly suspicious of strangers who get too close or are too friendly. One lesson to learn here is to split up where you carry your valuables if you opt not to carry an anti-theft wallet or bag that protects all your valuables. That way if you are victimized you’ll still have some of your important belongings.

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