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steverhodes

Pickpockets and how to deal with them

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A recurring theme are pickpockets and how best to prevent being pickpocketed.

 

A lot things could go wrong on a trip, falling and hurting yourself, traffic or pedestrian accidents, etc. ... and someone could steal your wallet.

 

My wife and I are careful when going on crowded subways but other than that we do what is most convenient for us rather what is most likely to thwart pickpockets.

 

She carries a purse over her shoulder with her wallet and iPhone in it. I have my wallet in my back pocket and my iPhone in my front pocket. This is what we normally do and is what most convenient for us.

 

I looked it up, we have spent 674 days on foreign vacations including 6 cruises. We have never been picketpocked and so far as we know no one on our 5 river and 1 ocean cruise were pickpocketed. However, many have fallen and hurt themselves, including my wife. If I am going to worry about something, it's falling.

 

And even we are pickpocketed, we only lose the cash plus the inconvenience of canceling our credit cards.

 

I once tried a money belt for a day. I hated it.

 

On the other hand, if you have a different opinion or approach, I respect that.

Edited by steverhodes

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After spending an extensive about of time in Europe and Asia (living months at a time a few years ago) as well as many trips lately. In all of that time I have never lost anything to pick pockets. I have seen them, but not have not had a problem myself. I do use hidden wallets, and have a front zippered pocket that I keep my walking around money in.

 

Two weeks ago, while in Paris, my wife and I encountered the most aggressive group of pick pockets that I have ever seen. Usually pickpockets will go away when you make it clear that you know what they are up to. This group 2 men and two women, ran up to us while we were walking along the Seine, in broad daylight along a very busy street. They were holding the usual clip boards that is the normal device for distracting victims. We made it quite clear that we knew that they were pickpockets and told them no and to stay back, They still aggressively approached and tried to unzip my pants pocket and my wife's bag. We literally had to knock their hands away. They gave up and left.

 

We encountered and had a chat with some other travelers about a block later that they had also gone after. At that time they were not sure if they had lost anything or not.

 

In many European cities the police have basically given up trying to stop them. As long as physical violence is not used they can pretty much work with out much fear of law enforcement. As such they seem to be moving from stealth to more shock tactics.

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steverhodes,

 

With the purse just on the shoulder and the wallet in the back pocket.... Congrats! You´ve been lucky!!

 

The basic advise for men is: Have nothing, absolutely nothing in your back pocket! Everything has to be in the front pockets - cell phone or wallet. That´s where you can put your hands on when it gets crowded (or uncomfortable in any way).

 

Purse over the shoulder and on the side... No go!! The strap of the purse has to cross over your body and the purse always has to face the building side of a sidewalk (never the street side). Even better: Move the purse to the front of your body! That´s where you can put your hands on... see above!

 

The rest is ... common sense! No blinky watches or jewelry... no high priced purses... (gee, it took me half an hour to tell my DD not to take her MK purse to Paris)...

 

I was lucky so far... app. 30 years ago I´ve been to Rome and we watched pickpockets... we started out shouting immediately... they dropped the wallet and were never seen again. So if you ever watch such a scene just shout out loud (doesn´t matter what). If you feel uncomfortable because someone is coming too close just start shouting! There are several well known methods like dancing around you, kids rounding you up, showing you a map and blocking your view, stain your clothes with anything (ketchup, mustard...) and trying to help you with the clean up... say "no" or shout out loud!

 

Never, never ever put your cell phone on the table in a café or any other outdoor seating of a restaurant... someone is coming up with a map, a newspaper or whatever blocking your view and another person takes your phone... you can´t even look that fast...

 

Just some last words... you´re basicly safe along the rivers... Big cities like Barcelona, Rome, Naples or Paris (which is also a river town) are the hot spots... Here in Munich it´s pretty safe but there are "seasons" where you should keep an eye on your belongings like the Christmas markets or the Oktoberfest... and ladies, make sure you have a purse which can be closed with a zipper!!

 

steamboats

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We were once pushed down an escalator in a Paris metro. That is how they create confusion and then grab your stuff.

 

Agree that a wallet in back-pocket and purse over shoulders are headlights to pickpockets to say - come get me!

 

The technique used is to distract you before grabbing your stuff. So you really need to ensure you stuff is remains tied to you even in a state of confusion. Holding on to a purse fails as a technique especially if your wife is made to think she has to reach out to help you; they shove you to make her think you need help. In reality, they are targeting her purse.

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steverhodes,

 

With the purse just on the shoulder and the wallet in the back pocket.... Congrats! You´ve been lucky!!

 

The basic advise for men is: Have nothing, absolutely nothing in your back pocket! Everything has to be in the front pockets - cell phone or wallet. That´s where you can put your hands on when it gets crowded (or uncomfortable in any way).

 

Purse over the shoulder and on the side... No go!! The strap of the purse has to cross over your body and the purse always has to face the building side of a sidewalk (never the street side). Even better: Move the purse to the front of your body! That´s where you can put your hands on... see above!

 

The rest is ... common sense! No blinky watches or jewelry... no high priced purses... (gee, it took me half an hour to tell my DD not to take her MK purse to Paris)...

 

I was lucky so far... app. 30 years ago I´ve been to Rome and we watched pickpockets... we started out shouting immediately... they dropped the wallet and were never seen again. So if you ever watch such a scene just shout out loud (doesn´t matter what). If you feel uncomfortable because someone is coming too close just start shouting! There are several well known methods like dancing around you, kids rounding you up, showing you a map and blocking your view, stain your clothes with anything (ketchup, mustard...) and trying to help you with the clean up... say "no" or shout out loud!

 

Never, never ever put your cell phone on the table in a café or any other outdoor seating of a restaurant... someone is coming up with a map, a newspaper or whatever blocking your view and another person takes your phone... you can´t even look that fast...

 

Just some last words... you´re basicly safe along the rivers... Big cities like Barcelona, Rome, Naples or Paris (which is also a river town) are the hot spots... Here in Munich it´s pretty safe but there are "seasons" where you should keep an eye on your belongings like the Christmas markets or the Oktoberfest... and ladies, make sure you have a purse which can be closed with a zipper!!

 

steamboats

 

My point is this. Stop worrying about this stuff, go enjoy yourself. Don't go into contortions. Do what is convenient for you. And, if you are going to worry, just modify your behavior on the places like crowded subways where pickpockets are likely to be a problem. Statistically the chance of you being robbed is quite low and even if you are, the cost is not that much anyway. Back to my point. Go have a good time.

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My point is this. Stop worrying about this stuff, go enjoy yourself. Don't go into contortions. Do what is convenient for you. And, if you are going to worry, just modify your behavior on the places like crowded subways where pickpockets are likely to be a problem. Statistically the chance of you being robbed is quite low and even if you are, the cost is not that much anyway. Back to my point. Go have a good time.

 

 

 

Just fine until you lose your ID, credit, phone or camera. Better to be careful at all times. We also have a rule when we travel that if one of us says "Get out of here" we all go with no questions. This comes after one of us was targeted by a pickpocket and another person in our group didn't understand why we needed to move away from the area we were in.

 

 

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The basic advise for men is: Have nothing, absolutely nothing in your back pocket!steamboats

 

I would modify this in one way: have a decoy in your back pocket, such as a 'purse pack' of tissues.

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steverhodes,

 

With the purse just on the shoulder and the wallet in the back pocket.... Congrats! You´ve been lucky!!

 

The basic advise for men is: Have nothing, absolutely nothing in your back pocket! Everything has to be in the front pockets - cell phone or wallet. That´s where you can put your hands on when it gets crowded (or uncomfortable in any way).

 

Purse over the shoulder and on the side... No go!! The strap of the purse has to cross over your body and the purse always has to face the building side of a sidewalk (never the street side). Even better: Move the purse to the front of your body! That´s where you can put your hands on... see above!

 

The rest is ... common sense! No blinky watches or jewelry... no high priced purses... (gee, it took me half an hour to tell my DD not to take her MK purse to Paris)...

 

I was lucky so far... app. 30 years ago I´ve been to Rome and we watched pickpockets... we started out shouting immediately... they dropped the wallet and were never seen again. So if you ever watch such a scene just shout out loud (doesn´t matter what). If you feel uncomfortable because someone is coming too close just start shouting! There are several well known methods like dancing around you, kids rounding you up, showing you a map and blocking your view, stain your clothes with anything (ketchup, mustard...) and trying to help you with the clean up... say "no" or shout out loud!

 

Never, never ever put your cell phone on the table in a café or any other outdoor seating of a restaurant... someone is coming up with a map, a newspaper or whatever blocking your view and another person takes your phone... you can´t even look that fast...

 

Just some last words... you´re basicly safe along the rivers... Big cities like Barcelona, Rome, Naples or Paris (which is also a river town) are the hot spots... Here in Munich it´s pretty safe but there are "seasons" where you should keep an eye on your belongings like the Christmas markets or the Oktoberfest... and ladies, make sure you have a purse which can be closed with a zipper!!

 

steamboats

 

I would disagree with the comment about being safe along rivers. At least in Paris stay away from the bank of the Seine between the Louvre and the Musee de l'Orangerie. Walk inside the Tuileries instead.

 

There are very aggressive groups of pick pockets working that area. After we ran into them had the opportunity to observe the are from the other side of the river a few times. The groups tend to hang out down along the river, then when someone walks along the upper walkway they rush up and swarm the victim. No violence but very much in your face aggressive behavior. Saw about 10-15 hanging out along the bank, trading off in groups of 4 to go after their targets. When they got something they would throw it down to the lower group, who would strip anything valuable out then throw rest in the river.

 

 

Apparently pretty successful. I talked to a local police officer about what we had observed and his comment was as long as they do not injure someone it is not worth their time to arrest them. If they do arrest they are back on the street before the paperwork is done and very difficult to successfully prosecute. If it goes to trial they just skip out (mostly Romanian Gypsies).

 

Most of the time when they approach with their clipboards if you tell them no and wave them off they go after other victims, but not this group. Shouting no had absolutely no effect, literally had to knock their hands away.

 

On the other hand the MK purse might not be that much of a target. MK counterfeits sold all over Europe. Especially Spain and Italy.

Edited by RDC1

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You have to be aware of your situation especially in crowded and dynamic places. I always carry my wallet in my right front pocket and my hand hits it with each walking stroke. 10 days ago it hit another hand as it was trying to pick my pocket at the ubahn in Vienna. Knocked the girls hand away and she jumped right back off the car. Vienna is not notorious for this problem but it can occur anywhere.

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You have to be aware of your situation especially in crowded and dynamic places. I always carry my wallet in my right front pocket and my hand hits it with each walking stroke. 10 days ago it hit another hand as it was trying to pick my pocket at the ubahn in Vienna. Knocked the girls hand away and she jumped right back off the car. Vienna is not notorious for this problem but it can occur anywhere.

 

While Vienna is not notorious for pick pockets. They are active there. Especially in train stations. While waiting for a train to Zurich once saw a family lose a suitcase. Did not see it happen, only noticed when they realized one of their suitcases were gone. They had several suitcases near their seats and apparently someone walking by just grabbed one and kept on walking.

 

In Lucerne, Switzerland 3 years ago I was checking out of a hotel when a couple came rushing back in. They had checked out a little bit earlier and had gone to the train station. The women had a large hand bag over her shoulder with the opening behind her. When they went to buy their train tickets they found her purse was unzipped and her wallet and passport were missing.

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RDC1,

 

"rivers" in general - meaning all the smaller towns and villages along the rivers in Europe. I specifically mentioned Paris as being not that safe. I also mentioned my hometown (although not really on a navigable river) but as Vienna Munich is basically safe. Sure you always have to be careful in crowded places.

 

I don´t walk around in Munich with my purse wide open so everyone can easily look into or grab into it. But usually it´s no problem to have your wallet in the back pocket. It´s all a thing of common sense.

 

At least the risk of being shot during a robbery is pretty much 0 over here ;). The risk of a person on a motorcycle grabbing your purse in Naples is pretty high...

 

steamboats

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Enjoy reading all the ideas on how to prevent pick pocketing..Unfortunately this is almost a given in today's world. My wife and I were in Barcelona last October and upon entering the subway..lots of bumping..and her money and credit cards were gone!

So smooth...so fast...so professional. Of course you try to be super vigilant but it does happen. One saving grace...

Before leaving we put a daily limit on our card...We had paid our hotel with the card and immediately after our card was taken...he/she went to purchase an expense train ticket....bingo! Was rejected because it was over the limit! That saved us from losing more than the case that was taken.

Agree...be careful..they are professionals...and enjoy...after you take precautions...

Final note...we told our story to one of our guides...who said she was also pickpocketed a month earlier!!!

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My DH uses a money belt and I use a crossover bag with a cut proof strap. I stay vigilant but not paranoid. So far so good.

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Just fine until you lose your ID, credit, phone or camera. Better to be careful at all times. We also have a rule when we travel that if one of us says "Get out of here" we all go with no questions. This comes after one of us was targeted by a pickpocket and another person in our group didn't understand why we needed to move away from the area we were in.

 

 

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My husband and I have a code phrase we use, and share it with our traveling companions in advance. If one of us says the phrase "Bailey Marie", which is our dogs name, it means for everyone to be extra vigilant. It also means nothing to anyone who happens to overhear it.

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I wear clothes with lots of hidden pockets where it is really hard if not impossible for pickpockets to guess where anything is. I NEVER carry a bag and if I wear any jewelry it is obviously cheap plastic. I do attempt to look and act like a business person instead of a tourist. My husband also wears clothes with hidden pockets and looks like a business man. We walk with purpose, having already planned where we are going. We try to give the impression that we are headed to work and not tourists. So far, no one has pickpocketed us or even attempted to - probably because they have no idea where our stuff is or if we actually have anything on us. The other thing is we don't look distracted so there is not much opportunity to approach us. We also minimize contact by using a driver in foreign cities or having a rental car and avoid lines and public transportation. If I plan to buy something, I get money out of one of my hidden pockets inside the vehicle, but mostly, I don't buy much overseas as I can order nearly anything I would want on the internet.

 

My husband likes to take photos, so if he is doing that, I stand back from him against something safe and watch to make sure no one attempts to approach him. There was one incident where someone looked like they were going to intentionally walk close to him so I suddenly walked diagonally across their line and timed it so they had to change course and be far away from him.

Edited by SuiteTraveler

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I wear clothes with lots of hidden pockets where it is really hard if not impossible for pickpockets to guess where anything is. I NEVER carry a bag and if I wear any jewelry it is obviously cheap plastic. I do attempt to look and act like a business person instead of a tourist. My husband also wears clothes with hidden pockets and looks like a business man. We walk with purpose, having already planned where we are going. We try to give the impression that we are headed to work and not tourists. So far, no one has pickpocketed us or even attempted to - probably because they have no idea where our stuff is or if we actually have anything on us. The other thing is we don't look distracted so there is not much opportunity to approach us. We also minimize contact by using a driver in foreign cities or having a rental car and avoid lines and public transportation. If I plan to buy something, I get money out of one of my hidden pockets inside the vehicle, but mostly, I don't buy much overseas as I can order nearly anything I would want on the internet.

 

My husband likes to take photos, so if he is doing that, I stand back from him against something safe and watch to make sure no one attempts to approach him. There was one incident where someone looked like they were going to intentionally walk close to him so I suddenly walked diagonally across their line and timed it so they had to change course and be far away from him.

 

Sounds exhausting to be "acting" while out in public everyday. Also exhausting to avoid public transportation which is quite often the fastest way to get around.

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Sounds exhausting to be "acting" while out in public everyday. Also exhausting to avoid public transportation which is quite often the fastest way to get around.

 

Back to my original point. I am of the camp of enjoying trips and doing what I like and not overly fretting about some low probability bad thing that could happen.

 

My hobby is photography and I always carry a big camera and lens over my shoulder where it is comfortable for me. If I carried it over my neck or across my body, walking would not be fun. Yes doing so would decrease the probability of theft, but it's not a trade off I am interested in. We taken almost 50 foreign trips. I always carry my camera that way. It is easy to shot quickly that way and avoid missing shots and it has never been scarfed.

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My hobby is photography and I always carry a big camera and lens over my shoulder where it is comfortable for me. If I carried it over my neck or across my body, walking would not be fun.

 

Is there is black market for big cameras any more? Mobile phones, credit cards and cash so much easier to recycle for financial benefit in these nasty people.

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Is there is black market for big cameras any more? Mobile phones, credit cards and cash so much easier to recycle for financial benefit in these nasty people.

 

Perhaps. Don't know. I would assume since camera and lens cost over $4,000 new, they could sell it for a lot. Certainly, they could get $2,000 on Ebay. But who knows, cash and credit cards may be the go to items for thieves.

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Last week at Odeon metro in Paris I was buying a carnet of tickets, a guy was standing too close and attempting to tell me how to do it, I waved him off and told him I knew what to do, he kept edging closer. I inserted a 20€ note in the machine and completed the purchase but as the carnet dropped down along with the change, about 6€, he started pushing my hand and trying to get his hand in the slot to retrieve my € and tickets, my husband had a big umbrella and pushed him away by poking him in the stomach. I guess these people don't want to get a 'real job' when the can scam others. We travel frequently and have been fortunate but we try to be extra vigilant knowing that it could happen.

 

 

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The OP raises the legitimate concerns of falling, hurting oneself, and accidents. I assume he takes common sense precautions to avoid such unfortunate events and lessen their severity.

His actions don't ruin his trip, interfere with the enjoyment of the vacation or become the cornerstone of his day.

Many of us take the same approach to pickpockets, overall crime, and in these times, violence.

I'm not sure it serves much purpose in ranking one travel cautionary tale over another.

 

 

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Back to my original point. I am of the camp of enjoying trips and doing what I like and not overly fretting about some low probability bad thing that could happen.

 

My hobby is photography and I always carry a big camera and lens over my shoulder where it is comfortable for me. If I carried it over my neck or across my body, walking would not be fun. Yes doing so would decrease the probability of theft, but it's not a trade off I am interested in. We taken almost 50 foreign trips. I always carry my camera that way. It is easy to shot quickly that way and avoid missing shots and it has never been scarfed.

 

Ok, I have been traveling internationally 35 years. What is the point of this thread? To tell people they are dumb? It seems to me that people smart enough to read this are smart enough to know how to travel.

 

Just seems like a thread for no point, unless making everyone know you are particularly good at not being pickpocketed is the point.

 

JC:halo:

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I would suspect that each of us has our careless moments, however attentive we are generally. And while I do think people oversell the pickpockets-in-other-countries thing, it doesn't hurt to share whatever hints seem to work. In over twenty years of international travel, DH was pickpocketed once in Rome and once in Jerusalem; but my two experiences of it were on the subway in Chicago. It is the case that pickpockets in other countries have a thousand years or more of tradition and culture behind their techniques. However, we may focus on it more because we are less sure of ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings. As with pretty much everything on these boards, we need to find our comfort zone, inform ourselves, and act accordingly. (Apologies for the platitude!)

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