Almost every traveler, well-seasoned or not, knows tourists are common targets for locals looking to pull the wool over their eyes.
Whether it’s a street hustler, bootleg vendor, or a flat-out thief, these pros are good at hitting their mark. You won’t even realize until it’s too late that you just bought the knock-off Iron Man movie played by a guy in a cheap costume and speaking Russian.
But the worst experience is when you’re far from home and realize that someone has pickpocketed your wallet. Fortunately, there are ways you can protect yourself from those slick, yet sticky, fingers.
Being stranded in the middle of Europe with no euros to get back to your hotel – along with a language barrier that prevents you from venting your frustration – is no way to start off the trip of a lifetime.
You may replay the day’s events over and over again in your mind, trying to figure out how you were tricked.
I mean, wouldn’t you be able to feel someone reaching into your pocket?
Well, not necessarily. Pickpockets are great at what they do and their tactics put you right where they want you.
Pickpocketing is extremely common, with more than 400,000 incidents occurring each day worldwide, according to Clever Travel Companion. The UK alone has 400,000 pickpocket incidents every year.
Some of the cities with the highest rates of pickpocketing are likely on your bucket list, such as Barcelona, Rome, and Prague.
Bob Arno, sleight-of-hand expert, writes on his website that 1 in 4 people who visit Barcelona will be pickpocketed.
One must be extra vigilant to protect their wallets during large events because pickpockets have a field day with all the distracted tourists.
According to the Daily Mail, “During the 2012 Olympics, reported incidents of pickpocketing rose to 1,700 per day in London.”
Secret wallets and neck bags are an option to keep your personals out of sight and hard to reach –however, they can be incredibly inconvenient when you need to access your money multiple times a day.
And having to unbutton your shirt to access your neck bag so you can pay the check at the famous restaurant, Vendome, in Germany isn’t going to look good!
Money belts (which are worn under or over your clothes like a fanny pack) are a good option to keep your cash free from any easy-access points, but they too pose aesthetic and functional issues.
Let’s look at some common scams and a few easy things you can do to prevent a pickpocket from getting the best of you and your hard-earned vacation money.
1. Make it hard
Pickpockets love to use the art of distraction to get your attention away from your wallet, and one way they do that is with the “dropped cane” technique, according to Travel and Leisure.
While an elderly or handicapped person pretends to need help, their partner in crime will slip into the pockets of bystanders to swipe their personal effects.
Put a rubber band around your wallet, making it difficult to slide easily out of your pocket.
Or, have it chained to your belt loop, deterring a pickpocket from even attempting to snatch it.
You may not want to look like a biker, but rocking some new vacation swagger may be what’s needed to ensure all that sight-seeing is the best part of the day.
2. Move your wallet
Wallets are typically kept in the back pocket of men with loose pants, making them a prime target for pickpockets using the “grabby children” technique.
With this pickpocket method, a beggar or salesman will hound you for money while surrounding children grab at your clothes.
While you are staring into the big blues of an adorable little child, the other little one is taking what they can out of your purse or pocket.
Try to keep your wallet in your front pocket or in a pocket that has a button on it while you walk down the bright, busy Commercial Street in Bangalore.
However, try to avoid looking like the stereotypical tourist, because it can make you an easy target, as Proud American Traveler has previously reported.
3. Keep your purse close and closed
As you gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the intricacy of the art and the depth of its depictions will take your breath away.
But that may not be the only thing taken if you aren’t careful!
Distractions like tourist attractions or a rowdy bunch of young men on the metro may be just what the pickpocket needs to slip away with your wallet unsuspectingly.
Wear a purse with a shoulder strap and a zippered top to keep your personal belongings inaccessible to a thief.
And be sure to never lay your bag down to pay for an item or tie your shoe because it may not be there when you look back up.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
It may seem like a smart idea to keep all your important items in one place so not to lose anything, but you could be setting yourself up for spending more time at the US embassy rather than the Louvre.
If your wallet does get stolen, so does all your money and credit cards, passport, identification, and hotel room key.
Now what do you do?
Don’t put yourself in that situation and only keep the money you are going to use for the day in your wallet. Keep your passport and identification in a separate zippered pocket inside a money-belt.
5. Trust your gut
No, I’m not talking about the noises coming from your intestines after you’ve finished a large plate of spaghetti and cannoli for dessert, but the instinctual feeling of danger when you walk into a dark alley at night.
Nobody wants to think the worst of someone or suspect they’re being scammed every time a man stops them on a street corner in New York City, but we have to be aware of the risk of danger in big cities.
If a French man is asking you directions to the iconic Pont Neuf, that’s a big red flag.
Trust your instincts and protect yourself and your belongings. If you sense there is something amiss, chances are there is.
Of course, it’s impossible to predict every situation’s outcome or protect yourself completely from all dangers, but if you put these easy tips into action, many pickpockets will be deterred from making you their victim.
Countries that are impoverished or have alot of tourist traffic are havens for pickpockets because they provide many easy targets and a quick payout.
Don’t become another statistic—take the necessary steps to stop a thief before they strike, thus saving your precious cannoli fund!
Please let us know in the comments section if you’ve ever been the victim of a pickpocket and what trick they used to get the best of you.