Pickpockets are thieves that specialize in robbing tourists when theyre not paying attention. Avoiding pickpockets presents a challenge since the thieves do their best to blend in with their environments and go unnoticed. To avoid becoming a victim, store your wallet in your front pocket and keep your belongings close at all times. Stay away from chatty strangers that may be trying to dupe you and keep your wits about you in crowded spaces. If you are robbed when traveling internationally, file a police report and visit your countrys embassy to replace your passport or ID.
[Edit]Storing and Handling Your Wallet Safely
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket to keep it close. If you usually store your wallet in your back pocket, keep it from being lifted while you cant see it by moving it in your front pocket. Its a lot harder for a pickpocket to steal your wallet, passport, or money if it isnt easily accessible to someone walking behind you.
- Belongings can rise up out of back pockets when you walk for a period of time. This makes items in your back pocket much easier to steal.
- Wrap a rubber band around your wallet so it doesnt slide out easily. Take a standard rubber band and stretch it out over the center of your wallet. Stick it deep in your pocket. If a thief tries to subtly snag your wallet, theyll struggle to pull it out of your pocket. This will give you adequate notice that someone is trying to rob you.
- If you have a choice, use a Velcro or fabric wallet instead of smooth leather. These are much harder to remove without you noticing.
- Hide your wallet in a hidden or secret pocket if you have one. If you have an item of clothing with a concealed pocket, store your wallet there. Pickpockets tend to look in obvious places for valuables and money, and they wont know where to look if your wallet is inside your jacket, in an invisible seam, or hidden near your breast pocket.
- If you have to stash something in your jacket, put it in a Velcro pouch. The Velcro will make a bunch of noise if someone tries to reach inside of the pocket.
- Avoid rummaging through your wallet to count money. If possible, keep a separate money clip to hold your money or store it in a secure pocket. This way you wont need to bring your wallet out to search through it for the bills that you need. If you are keeping your money in a wallet, only pull it out when you absolutely need to pay for something. Hold your wallet with both hands to avoid giving an opportunistic thief a chance to snatch it while youre distracted.
- If you are storing your money in a pocket, pick a front pocket on your pants or jacket. Do not store anything else in the pocket so that thieves think your pocket is empty.
- Create a fake wallet and store it in your back pocket to trick thieves. Buy a wallet and transfer your cards and money to the new one. Stuff your worn-out wallet with scraps of paper, empty gift cards, and random receipts. When traveling, keep your decoy wallet on you. If you are robbed or someone attempts to steal from you, pull your decoy wallet out, drop it, and run in the other direction.
- Dont stick your decoy wallet out of your pocket so that it is highly visible. You dont want to encourage people to rob you!
[Edit]Securing Your Bag or Purse
- Choose a purse with a complex latch to deter pickpockets. If you typically use a purse with no closing mechanism, get a purse with a twisting latch or zipper. These purses are harder to open and a pickpocket likely wont bother trying to slip their hand inside. If possible, use a purse with a lock on it to ensure that nothing goes missing while youre traveling.
- The smaller you can make your purse, the better. Big purses provide more space for a thief to operate.
- Shorten the straps on your bag or purse to keep it close to you. To avoid having your bag ripped away from you, keep your bag or backpack as close as you can to your body. Pull the straps on your purse or backpack to shorten them and keep the bag closer to your body. This will make it much harder for someone to reach into your bag while youre traveling.
- If you really want to avoid giving pickpockets a chance at your bag, you can walk around with it hanging on your chest instead of your back.
- Hold your bag or backpack instead of setting it down when you sit. If you take a seat at a restaurant or sit down on the bus, rotate your bag around your shoulder and hold it on your lap. If you set it down on the floor or hang it off the back of a chair, itll be an easy target for thieves. Youre also more likely to forget about your bag when you get out of your seat if you set it down.
- Transfer the contents of your purse to a fanny pack. A purse strap can be cut, making it easy to rip the bag away from you in a matter of seconds. However, a nylon fanny pack that sits tightly around your waist is much harder to cut or remove. Take your purse and move the cards and cash to your fanny pack. Tighten the straps around your waist and rotate the bag so that the pouch sits just below your belly button. This will make it easier to keep an eye on your valuables.
- Do not use a fanny pack with the standard plastic buckle. Instead, get an anti-theft fanny pack online. These packs have tougher buckles, and can often be locked to prevent thieves from accessing their contents.
[Edit]Keeping Valuables out of Reach
- Take what you need and leave the rest in your hotel safe. Most hotels have safes so that travelers can store important belongings while the room is being cleaned or theyre out on the town. Before you go out, place your passport, house keys, excess cash, and expensive jewelry in the safe and lock it. If you are pickpocketed, youll only lose some of your money and belongings.
- Always leave some extra cash in your hotel safe. In the event that you are pickpocketed, youll still be able to get a ride and feed yourself before you can rectify the situation.
- Keep your phone in a concealed pocket and avoid taking it out. Keep your phone in an interior pocket that isnt easily accessible to pickpockets. Try your best to avoid pulling it out frequently, especially when youre focused on finding directions. If you do have to take your phone out, hold it firmly with both hands and dont stare at it for more than 5-10 seconds at a time.
- When you take your phone out to take photos, always put it back in your pocket when youre done. Turn down offers from strangers to take your photo with your phone.
- Print the maps that you need at the hotel to avoid needing to use your phone to figure out where you are.
- Even if you dont want to use it, its still a good idea to keep your phone on you. You never know when youre going to need to make an emergency call.
- Tuck your necklace into your shirt and leave your watch at the hotel. If you wear jewelry, tuck your necklaces into your shirt so that they cant be ripped off of your neck. Dont bring your watch with you if its worth more than a few dollars. Avoid bringing jewelry with a lot of gemstones on them, regardless of whether theyre real or not.
- Unless theyre incredibly loose, your rings are probably fine. Theyre pretty hard to lift without you noticing. Be wary of wearing rings with gemstones in them, though. If youre wearing a lot of jewels, pickpockets are more likely to assume that youre carrying a lot of cash.
- If you can, dont bring any jewelry on your trip. Unless youre going out to a fancy dinner or show, theres no need to bring it along.
[Edit]Avoiding Common Scams
- Stay away from ATMs that arent inside private businesses. ATM machines are magnets for pickpockets. Some thieves will work in pairs to distract you from one side while snatching your money while you arent looking. Other criminals will peek over your shoulder to see your PIN number and try to lift your wallet later. If you have to use an ATM, find one inside a reputable business that isnt out in the open so that you can withdraw your cash in a safe location.
- ATMs that are tucked away inside of private nooks at restaurants and hotels are much more difficult to exploit.
- Pat your pocket to check your phone and wallet after getting bumped. Some thieves will pretend to accidentally bump into you while youre walking down the street or getting on the bus. When they bump into you, theyll reach into an easily-accessed pocket to try and grab something valuable. After anyone bumps into you, subtly pat your pockets to make sure that your personal belongings havent been lifted.
- Avoid brushing up against people in crowds or tight quarters. Thieves often rely on dense crowds to avoid being noticed. Keep a tight hold on your belongings and remain alert when youre on the bus, getting on a train, or wandering through a crowded metropolitan area.
- Be wary of interviewers, fundraisers, or chatty strangers. Pickpockets will often work in teams and try to distract you while someone robs you from behind.
- Keep a healthy distance when someone offers to give you directions. When receiving directions from a stranger, stay at least away at all times. Dont look over their shoulder to reference a map and dont lean in close to listen. Clever pickpockets will try to hold a map or pamphlet up to show you something while reaching into your pocket or bag.
- Be cautious about accepting unsolicited help. Most people are just trying to help, but pickpockets often volunteer to help to lure you into feeling safe.
- Dress inconspicuously to blend in and look like a local. If youre traveling, do your best to blend in with your environment by dressing down. Avoid bright clothing that is going to make you stand out and stay away from tourist apparel to play down the fact that youre visiting. Thieves are less likely to try robbing someone that lives where they do.
- This wont necessarily work if youre an Brit with red hair travelling in India. If youre really far from home, you may simply not be able to blend in.
- Keep your bags away from the street to stop mobile thieves. In many countries, pickpockets will use a scooter or bike, pull up next to you, and rip any bags or purses off of your shoulder before speeding off. To avoid giving these thieves the opportunity, carry shopping bags and purses on the shoulder furthest from the street.
- This is more common in countries with a lot of motorized scooters. In the United States, for example, this is not a common type of theft.
- Walk against the flow of traffic so that you can see a scooter or bike pulling up to you.
- Be aware of your surroundings while watching street performers. Pickpockets prey on large crowds of tourists, and street performers typically attract dozens of them. In addition, people often pull out their wallets to give street performers a couple of dollars. Theres nothing wrong with giving some spare change to a street performer, but pulling out your wallet reveals where youre keeping it. Keep your valuables close and stay alert when enjoying some public entertainment.
- If you do want to give a street performer money, keep a dollar or some spare change in a pocket where you arent storing your wallet. This way, potential thieves wont know where you keep your cash when you go to donate some money.
- Turn down strangers offering to help you with your luggage. If youre carrying luggage on the train or unloading it from a cab, always refuse help from strangers offering to help you with your bags. Even if the luggage is on the heavier side, you never know when someone is going to sprint off with your goods. Some people may be genuinely trying to help, but its not worth risking your property.
- It may be annoying, but its better to just take an extra 5-10 minutes to carry your luggage yourself.
- If you become a victim of pickpocketing and lose your passport or wallet when traveling abroad, visit your countrys embassy. Theyll assist you in confirming your identity and help you get back into your country.
- Pay attention when youre getting in and out of taxis or rideshares. Its easy to forget your phone or wallet if you put it down on the seat next to you.
- Pickpockets are everywhere. You should not think that pickpocketing only happens in Europe, as you may let your guard down in the area where you live.
- If you are robbed, dont confront the thief unless the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor, they arent armed, and you're in a public space with other people around. Its always safer to go to the police and allow them to do their job.