Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Three Reasons Why Pickpockets Have Never Affected Me

A s a public service resulting from an actual incident, this guide of four tips pertaining to how to avoid pickpockets was written by Jeanne Marie Hoffman of Le Chic Geek; and the information can potentially be useful…

…but here are three reasons why pickpockets have never affected me.

1. I Keep Valuable Items in My Front Pocket — And…

I have been to places all over the world rife with crowds: Luxor, Tokyo, Madrid, Napoli, Johannesburg 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.

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.

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.

2. Remain Aware and Alert at All Times

“I’ve kept a running checklist in my mind of things to pay attention to while out”, according to Jeanne Marie Hoffman in the aforementioned article. “I think this has helped me not get pickpocketed, especially in a situation where I was juggling a lot of things.”

I suppose that is effective if it works for her; but for me, the concept of remaining aware and alert at all times is simpler. I look around me inconspicuously to detect potential problems.

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.


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.

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 eight years ago; but the 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.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Only comment is you never know who reads these posts especially with the title ! I would strongly suggest that travelers consider wearing a “money belt” securely around them. A color laminated copy of passport photo page and information page, one credit card and some cash. Just saying.

    1. That is one reason why I typically never publicly reveal my travel plans, ghostrider5408.

      You impart good advice which others should consider heeding. Thank you.

  2. Be as Inconspicuous as Possible = Don’t look like a tourist.
    My friend who was mugged once plus almost mugged two other times in Paris had no more problems once I told him how to dress and act while overseas. He was so happy when he got back from his latest trip to Paris. He said No one even looked at me!

    Apart from all the tips given by different writers, here is what else I do:
    1. I pick up a local language publication and carry it with me. It makes me look like a local, and especially if I pretend to read it on the subway. People have no idea I don’t understand what I am reading.

    2. I walk very confidently like a local who knows where I am going, even when I don’t know where I am going. I act the part, and never want the crooks to think I am not sure where I am or where I am going.

    3. I take photos of maps on my phone and look at them in a discreet location, as if I am reading an email or SMS.

    4. I try not to speak in the train or crowds so people won’t know where I am from.

    5. When approached by a solicitor I give them a dirty look and walk away like a local would. If necessary I will put my hand out with a brushing away gesture shoo them off.

    6. Sometimes I will pretend I am getting a phone call and mumble and gesture like a local would.
    When I go someplace new I like to observe and pick up local body language.

    7. Before going anywhere new, I not only learn the local customs and greetings but also learn the common crimes committed and which areas to avoid.

    8. And of course, I am alert to my surroundings whenever there are other people.

  3. Agree completely with Jason and add: 9. Carry a small amount of local currency in your front pockets for incidentals. 10. Try to memorize your travel route so you look like you know where you are going. 11. Skip the backback and carry a generic tote bag for maps, travel guides, water bottles, umbrella and the like.

    1. #10 Memorize your travel route.
      I do this too since I am good with maps. However, for many people this is unfortunately not easy. Some people have a difficult time following the GPS in their car!
      So what I recommend for those who have a hard time memorizing a route, to walk confidently as if you know where you are going, then find a corner someplace where you can look at the map on your phone to get your bearings. You can always back track if you took the wrong turn.
      #11 Skip the Backpack.
      I carry a very simple, inexpensive one that is dark color, plain and very basic. No tags or brand identification = to make myself as low key as possible. I do this because I find it a lot easier to carry a backpack over one shoulder than it is to carry a tote bag.

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!