Pickpockets Don’t Always Look Like Criminals

BY Beth Williams
What do pickpockets look like?

What do pickpockets look like?

Many travelers think they know what pickpockets look like.  Typically they stereotype them as “shady characters” who  look like a crook.  While that is true for a small portion of the time, many times professional pickpockets go to great strides to blend into the crowd and area so their victims are not aware of them. To prove this point, police in Sterling Heights, Michigan have begun to alert the public that they should not assume that the sweet old lady in a hat they see standing next to them in the mall is not someone who just returned from the royal wedding.  These older, non threatening women just might be there to steal your wallet.

Police in an upscale Detroit suburb say an all-female criminal ring, made up of middle-aged and elderly women, are running a sophisticated con in which they allegedly pick the pockets of unsuspecting shoppers and use the stolen credit cards elsewhere.  The group which police nicknamed the “Mad Hatters,” is a pickpocket ring is made up of at least six women who frequently wear hats to disguise their identities and have allegedly swiped more than $500,000 in the past year and half, authorities say.  One bank alone estimated it had lost at least $200,000 at the hands of the hatters. Travelers should be very aware that pickpockets come in all shapes, ages, colors, and ages.

Here are a few tips to help spot a pickpocket before they strike

Watch out for people that make a scene

People who have dropped groceries or are trying to make a scene within a crowd are often just regular people. However, some of them are just aiming to create confusion among the group, and their accomplices are just there waiting in the sidelines for you to lose your attention so that they can then pick your pocket.

Be aware of those that try get close to you

Getting close to people are unavoidable especially in crowded areas. However, if you find someone crowding your personal space constantly, then he or she may be a pickpocket, and it would be wise to go to an area with an open space, or towards someone who is a person of authority like a police officer or security guard.

Keep an eye out for people trying to make a conversation

At one time or another, some people may stop you from your walk to ask something. They may ask about road directions, or if you have seen a certain person. There is a big chance that these are pickpockets trying to divert your attention so that their partners can take advantage of your loss of focus.

When talking to anyone on the street, be wary of your surroundings at all time, or put your hands in your pockets just to be sure. This will make picking your pocket that much more difficult.

Be cautious of anyone trying to blend in

The main weapon of a pickpocket is his or her ability to blend in with a crowd. Still, you can probably observe people who are trying too hard to join the crowd for the purpose of stealing from them. Be wary of everyone when in a crowded area, and don’t trust anyone simply because they are a child, old, infirm, or even pregnant.

Most pickpockets have their own gimmicks to make themselves blend as well as make you trust them, so make sure to be alert at all times to avoid having someone emptying your pockets without you knowing.