Reminder: 3 Ways to Avoid Being the Victim of Pickpockets
Mere seconds is all the time that is needed for a pickpocket to suddenly ruin your trip — and hours, days or even weeks of time could elapse until you are finally back to some semblance of normal, as by the time you realize that you became the victim of a pickpocket, he or she is already long gone.
Reminder: 3 Ways to Avoid Being the Victim of Pickpockets
Unfortunately, Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler proved that even the most seasoned travelers can be inadvertently affected by pickpockets, as he imparted his experience on a public bus in Prague in detail in this article…
…and although the following three ways to avoid being the victim of a pickpocket — which I first imparted in this article — are not completely foolproof or 100 percent guaranteed effective, you will decrease your chances of becoming the next victim. I can say that because I have never once been the victim of a pickpocket during any of my travels over the years.
In fact, I cannot recall at any time in my life — whether traveling or not — when I have been a target of a pickpocket. Perhaps I can attribute that to being born and raised in Brooklyn, where I used city buses to travel to middle school; and subways to commute for years to Manhattan for high school, college, and to a job in Times Square…
…and yes, I have experienced crowded streets and subway cars countless times in Manhattan.
1. Keep Valuable Items in Your Front Pocket — And…
Yes, Ric Garrido did keep his valuables in his front pocket — but that is not enough, as a pickpocket was still able to access them.
I keep my valuables — typically a passport, a couple of credit cards, a driver’s license and some cash — in my front left pocket; and I have developed the habit over the years of keeping either a thumb or my fingers in that pocket much of the time. In fact, that automatically happens whenever I am amongst other people in an unfamiliar place; but I do it inconspicuously enough where it is not obvious as to the reason why I do it.
If my other hand is available, I might put the thumb or fingers into the right pocket as well — just to have the action appear casual and throw off anyone who might be eying me.
Although some readers of The Gate disagree with me, I still maintain — based on my experience — that you should not keep your valuable items in your back pocket, as taking items from your back pocket is usually easier for a pickpocket than attempting to take them from your front pocket.
I have been to places all over the world rife with crowds: Luxor, Tokyo, Madrid, Napoli, Johannesburg, Warsaw and Shanghai immediately come to mind as a few of the many places where I was literally squeezing through throngs of people to get to where I wanted or needed to go.
Keeping valuable items in a purse or other external bag falls into the realm of a snatcher and not necessarily a pickpocket; but in such cases, ensure that the straps of the bag are as secure to your person as possible — perhaps wrapped around your arm or body — and in front of you at all times.
Although not always feasible, try not to carry too much cash on you so that your losses are limited in case you are the victim of a pickpocket or robber.
2. Remain Aware and Alert at All Times
I remain aware and alert at all times, as I look around me inconspicuously to detect potential problems. Although I have always had an excellent sense of direction, there are moments when I temporarily lose my bearings. I never give the impression that I am lost or unsure of myself. Rather, I strive to look confident at all times; and I will sometimes feign an action to pretend that I am about to do something else when I am really recovering back to knowing where I am going and what I am doing.
Remaining aware and alert does not just help to prevent a pickpocket from targeting you. It can help keep you safe in general.
Always be as alert and as aware of your surroundings as possible.
3. Be as Inconspicuous as Possible
I will borrow this tip from this article I recently wrote pertaining to 14 tips on how you can prevent theft in hotels and aboard airplanes.
Do not dress for success — rather, be as inconspicuous as possible. Wear jeans and a T-shirt when checking in to the hotel; or nice jeans and a polo shirt if you are conscious about your appearance. There is no need to appear slovenly and unkempt; but try not to stand out, either. Whether the duration of the flight is short or long, be as comfortable as possible with how you are dressed. Ensure that your belongings do not look valuable — for example, using a duffel bag implies that you are not carrying anything valuable.
Calling attention to yourself only increases the odds of you being a victim of a pickpocket or other crime.
Bonus Tip: Shield the Keypad
Finally, here is a bonus tip: the pickpocket knew the personal identification number of a credit card which Ric Garrido was carrying. “I inserted my credit card and when asked to key in my PIN, my actual thought at the time was the keypad display had no protective shield and its positioning on the machine made it highly visible to onlookers”, Ric recalled. “My PIN was used for bank cash withdrawals, confirming my suspicion that the key pad at the bus ticket machine at Prague Airport is quite exposed to onlookers and needs a security shield.”
Whether I am at a fuel station near where I am based or at an automated teller machine halfway around the world, I always use my other hand to shield the keypad from any onlookers — even when there is a shield; and even when nobody seems to be around, as I imagine the possibility that someone with binoculars may be watching from afar. Sometimes, I will even pretend to press an extra key or two between actually pressing keys to throw off someone who is more sophisticated than others and may be watching…
…and this tip has yet to fail me as well.
Honing your sense of awareness to improve your peripheral sense in your immediate vicinity is never a bad idea; but it will require time and discipline to develop into a habit — similar to me not touching sensitive parts of my face with my hands once I realize that they may be contaminated with unwanted germs prior to washing them throughly and rarely getting sick as a result.
I very briefly first covered this topic greater than nine years ago; but that article had more to do with tips given by FlyerTalk members.
These three tips may not seem like they would work — and there is no guarantee that you will not be a target of a pickpocket despite following them — but they have been 100 percent effective for me; and I hope they do not fail me in the future…
…but to put it another way: if there are two houses and one house merely gives the impression that it is occupied or protected by a security alarm system while the other appears unoccupied, which house do you believe a potential burglar will likely target?
Similarly, give the impression to the potential pickpocket that other people in the vicinity are easier targets than you — which is easily achieved by following the aforementioned three steps.
Other methods — such as wearing a money belt — can also be effective in deterring pickpockets from targeting you as their next victim; but I have never had to use other methods…
…and although the chances are low, I hope that Ric Garrido is able to recover as many of his belongings as possible.
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.