Have you been the victim of a pickpocket? It is the most widespread and oldest crime in the world. Pickpocketing is relatively safe for the scoundrels because victims rarely confront or report them. The reason is that victims typically only discover their losses long after the crime took place. The only weapons they have are the dexterity and gift of misdirection. Hence, when they are caught, the punishment is typically no more than minimal jail time. Pickpockets operate worldwide. However, Europe, and mostly the cities of Barcelona, Spain; Rome, Italy, and Prague in the Czech Republic are known for this type of criminal activity.
Here are some of the things that could show pickpockets that you might be the perfect victim.
Each pickpocket is part of a group
Even though one imagines them to be solitary, shady characters, they typically work in groups. One person distracts you by bumping into you, spilling something on you or asking directions. While your attention is with that person, other group members will cleverly pick your pockets. They might even cut through your bag’s material to reach the contents.
Your distraction can make you a pickpocket victim
They look out for tourists who are in unfamiliar surroundings. Picture yourself getting off the train or bus in a strange city. For that moment of disorientation, you are the perfect subject to rid of your valuables or money. Similarly, as you exit a movie theater’s darkness and noise, your moment of getting your bearings makes you vulnerable.
High traffic areas with limited personal space where being bumped, jostled and pushed would not be unusual should put you on guard.
Pickpocket risks on public transportation
You might relax as you rest your tired legs on the subway or bus. However, don’t let your guard down. Keep your purse, wallet or bag in front instead of over your shoulder or at your back. Also, hold your hands in the opening of your bag to alert you if anyone else’s hand goes in there.
Your clothes might attract a pickpocket
Be aware that North Americans stick out wherever they go. Avoid wearing your alma mater T-shirt. Instead, dress more like the locals. Anything printed with big U.S. brands or large English words will draw local tricksters like a magnet.
Tourist attractions are enormous red flags
Pickpockets know that locals avoid tourist attractions. They know that they can pick and choose their victims among the tourists who typically have cash and other valuables on their person. If you walk with purpose and look vigilant, they might move on to the next potential victim.
Keep your caution guarded
Remember that pickpockets miss nothing. Being obviously cautious can count against you. For example, patting the pocket that holds your wallet to check that it’s still there is not wise. It would be a clear signal to where your valuables are, making their task so much easier.
Similarly, touristy places with signs to warn you of pickpocket risks attract them like a honeybird to a beehive. Involuntarily, people read the sign and immediately touch the place that holds the money or other valuable possessions. Spotters have the sole task of watching tourists and point them out to their partners in crime, with the added information of where to strike.
Pickpockets prefer lucrative targets
It is best to be discreet with your wallet when you take it out to pay for purchases. Chances are somebody peeks over your shoulder to check your cash and credit cards. Carrying a credit or debit card is no longer safer than carrying cash. Even pickpockets know their way around digital crimes. A valuable tip might be to keep your pockets empty and have an extra wallet with small amounts of money, filled with expired credit cards. If you are told to hand over your wallet, you can do so without significant loss. The predators will not immediately notice the dates on your cards, and the bulk of your cash will be in another, well-concealed wallet.
It is also not wise to wear expensive jewelry, which could indicate more valuables in your purse.
In short, carry only bags and purses with zippers and invest in anti-theft products. I was surprised to learn that you can even buy Aviator USA travel jeans with all kinds of hidden zippered pockets. Most importantly, do not carry more cash than you plan to spend and don’t take all your credit cards with you. Take only the necessary and lock the rest in a safe at your hotel. That way, if you become a pickpocket victim, you will lose less.