Purse Theft – How Purse Thieves Work

BY Beth Williams

Purse theft by thieves and pickpockets has been around since purses were first made. Purse theft is a crime that every woman should be vigilant against, as having your purse stolen or picked, can be a huge inconvenience if not devastating. If a purse thief victimizes you while you’re traveling the purse theft can be 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 the victim’s fault for not being vigilant. 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 her.
  • A woman whose wallet is sticking out of her purse.
  • A woman who leaves her purse or wallet in a shopping cart.
  • A woman who has set her purse or wallet down on a table or counter.
  • Purses are left in unattended offices or dressing rooms.
  • Purses and coats dangling on coat racks.
  • Purses or bags are left in an unlocked car.

The best target is a woman alone with a dangling purse or one she is not aware of. A simple snatch isn’t difficult to set up; the hard part is waiting for just the right moment to strike. There are three different kinds of purse theft:

Snatch and Run Purse Thefts:

Boiled down to basics a thief will just grab the purse from his 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 Purse Theft:

This is a very simple pickpocketing theft where the thief dips down and removes something from an “open” purse – usually the wallet or cell phone. Often the thief or an accomplice stages a distraction or bumps into the victim so their attention is momentarily averted from their bag. We suggest you do not travel with open-top totes that do not have zipper closures.

Sneak and Stash Purse Theft:

This is also a form of pickpocketing; more commonly known to the world as sneak-thieving or opportunistic pickpocketing. It is not violent just opportunistic when a thief steals without being noticed.

What Purse Thieves Look For:

We’ve all seen the woman who leaves her purse in her car, or unattended in the grocery store shopping cart, 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.

The most common scenario involves a grocery store. 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 it’s the perfect time for the purse thief to strike, either taking just the wallet or taking the whole bag. Just taking the wallet gives the thief more time to get away and is less obvious, compared to taking the entire purse which is more noticeable. The stolen item is frequently placed inside another bag to hide it and to make the getaway easier and less obvious.

Techniques Used By Purse Thieves and Purse Pickpockets

Kick the Purse

Sometimes when a woman sits down at a table or bar she will put her purse down on the floor. This theft method is where the thief gets close to the victim and kicks 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” and reach down to slide the bag back into place while simultaneously helping himself to the wallet from the unzipped bag.

What Time is it?

This is a common distraction that requires a team of thieves to execute. One thief engages the victim in a conversation by asking a question.  As the conversation progresses a second thief or accomplice will steal the purse while the mark is distracted by the kind tourist or local who began the friendly chat.

Chair Lift

This is a very common theft method – the thief simply removes a purse from the back of a chair. Never hang your bag behind you so that someone can remove your purse without your knowledge.

So what should you do? Travel with a purse that has a few key built-in anti-theft features and use them!  The antitheft features we like for travel handbags are locking zippers to keep pesky pickpockets out and we also like purse straps that detach on one side of the bag so that they can be wrapped through a chair back or around a table leg and attached back onto the bag, in effect tethering the bag to the stationary item. Lastly, always carry your travel purse crossbody style with the pouch in front of you and never behind you.

Stop thieves and pickpockets with a security travel handbag.

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