How To Protect Yourself From Pickpockets

Who are they?

First of all, pickpockets most often are not what you'd expect.  They're not shady looking men or down on their luck bums.  Most often they will actually be young boys and girls around 10-12 years old.

Since people are more trusting of kids and never suspect that they would rob them, they're able to get victims to let their defenses down easier.  Also, because they're minors and don't have any ID, police can't really do anything when they're caught.

Along with kids, there are also well dressed businessmen who are pickpockets.  Once again, people never suspect that a "successful" business man could ever be a thief.

Pickpockets will almost always work in groups.  A few will create a distraction while another picks your pocket and hands it off to someone else.

Know the hotspots

The major hotspots are in areas that are heavily populated with tourists like popular tourist attractions, street performances, and on public transport.

Also, be weary when shopping, sitting in a restaurant or café, and when you're visiting the beach.

Travel Tip
Most tricks pickpockets use involve some form of distraction.  Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

Don't be a target

Pickpockets tend to target certain types of people and are always looking for the easiest target to avoid any confrontation.  They prey on people who are confused and overwhelmed.  Walking around with alot of bags makes it hard to watch over everything and creates a prime target for pickpockets.

Also, don’t go out flashing your expensive watch, diamond earrings or gold chain for everyone to see.  Not only are you dangling treasure but you’re also advertising how rich you are.

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On the metro

1) Escalator backup

A group of pickpockets will follow their target up an escalator with two people in front of the target and another two behind him.  At the top of the escalator, one of the people in front will stop and force a backlog of people.  While the confusion is happening the two people behind the target will reach into his pockets and take what they want.

2) Turnstile stall

Similar to the escalator backup, here one person will cut in front of you as you approach the turnstile in a metro station.  While he's "having trouble" with the turnstile his accomplice will swoop in behind you.

3) Crowd the metro

A group of kids will push onto a crowded train right before the doors close and crowd around you.  After picking your pocket they'll all hop off the train as the doors close.  You'll only realize what has happened the train has left the station.

4) Phone grab

If you're using your phone near the door of a subway car you could be a target.  Thieves will reach in and snatch your phone right from your hand as the doors close.

On the street

1) Bump and lift

If someone bumps into to you, do a quick check of your pockets.  They may have just skillfully reached into your pocket and lifted your wallet or phone.

2) Paper distraction

One of the most common tricks pickpockets use is to distract you by putting a newspaper or map in front of you to distract you and alter your line of sight.  While they distract you with the paper, his accomplice will be busy underneath taking from you.

3) Bird poop

This scam starts with someone spraying you with something resembling bird poop (it could be something like milk, ketchup or mustard).  Miraculously someone else will soon appear to help you clean up this embarrassing mess.  As you're laughing together about the situation he goes through your pockets and takes what he wants.

4) The drop

Working as a pair one person will drop something in front of you and the other will pick your pocket as you're reaching down to help pick up the item.

How to protect yourself

There are a few simple tricks to protect yourself from being pickpocketed.  First of all, only take what you need for the day and keep the rest locked up at the hostel.

Also, don't keep everything in the same area.  Carry your wallet, passport and phone in different pockets and avoid using your back pockets as those are the most accessible to pickpockets.

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I've been robbed, now what?

1) Don't panic!

Being robbed can be traumatic.  You'll feel like you've been invaded and your sense of safety and security will be gone.  Try to keep calm and, remember, you're safe and whatever was stolen can be replaced.

2) Contact the authorities

Contact the local police and fill out a report with an inventory of what was stolen.  Even if the chances of finding your stolen items is slim, you may need this police report when filing an insurance claim.  If your passport was stolen you'll need to contact your embassy as well for assistance in replacing it.

3) Cancel your cards

As soon as you are able to, contact your banks to cancel any cards that were stolen.  If your laptop or phone was stolen you should also change any passwords you had for websites you used commonly especially anything that dealt with online banking.

4) Be strong

Yes, this will probably be the lowest of the lows for your travels but don't let this define your trip.  Try to pick yourself back up and continue on with your travels - there's a ton of great things lying ahead for you!
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