The Problem with Pickpockets

A Monk Tourist at Notre DamePickpockets are a major problem in Europe and definitely a problem in Paris.  Someone I am traveling with was pickpocketed yesterday in the metro and she lost all of her money and cards.  Luckily she was not hurt and has a supportive group to help her out.  I can’t imagine how challenging it would have been if she was traveling alone.  Although it is a horrible situation to be in, there are lessons that can be learned.  I’m hoping to share some tips with you to prevent another occurrence.

How to Avoid Pickpockets

-Carry your Items Carefully

A zipper or clasp is nothing for a pickpocket to get past.  If you want to secure your important items, place them in a zippered pocket within the purse and then clasp/zipper.  My current bag has a zippered pocket, a zippered top, and a clasp top.  It would take some time to find my money, plus I place my hand over my bag.  If you are serious about security, consider the Pacsafe bags.  Men, keeping your wallet in your back pocket is a big no-no.  Money belts are probably the best option for you.

I also recommend wearing items across your body.  A shoulder bag is not a challenge for a thief.  One swift movement and it is gone before you know it.  They may be walking, or even ride by on a scooter and rip it off of you.

-Wear a Money Belt

This is probably the safest option.  It may not be the easiest or most flattering, but no one really knows your money is there.  When I am carrying large sums of money, I use a money belt.

-Don’t Act Like a Tourist

Usually tourists are targeted because we stick out.  We are louder, confused, and less aware of our personal surroundings.  There is so much stimulation, how could we notice someone grabbing our dough?  Try your best to have your senses heightened in typical danger areas.  These areas include: subways, museums, major tourists sights, airports, train stations, and any other place with large quantities of people.

-Try not to be too Trusting

Pickpockets are not easily picked out from a group of people.  It might be that man in a suit, or that mother with children.  They will use all kinds of tricks to distract you.  Watch out when people bump into you, spill something on you, or ask something of you.

-Don’t Keep Everything in One Location

Although prevention is the best hope, there is always a chance something will happen.  Try not to carry everything with you.  Many tourists carry their money, cards, passports, and tickets all together.  I now keep a credit card, debit card, and minimal cash in my purse.  My other cards and big money are stowed safely away somewhere else as backup.

-Bring Copies of Important Information

Before I leave, I make a copy of all my credit/debit cards and passport.  It may not be necessary, but it makes the recovery process much easier.  Important information like phone numbers and account information will be saved on your copies if you are ever in need.

What to do if you are a Victim

-Cancel all Cards Immediately

Many thieves will just take your cash and be done, but you cannot count on it.  Call your companies to report theft.  Before you call, try to remember your last transaction because this is a way they help to verify you are the card owner.

-File a Police Report

This is most necessary if you have lost your passport or any kind of ticket.  If you are in a subway, you can most likely go to any police station.  If not, you have to go to the police station that has jurisdiction over that area.  I have read that this is an essential part if you are claiming something for traveler’s insurance or need replacement of a passport.  If your passport has been stolen, you will need to go to the embassy.

I hope that you will be safe in your travels.  Travel is always worthwhile and this is no reason to avoid it, but be prepared and aware.

8 thoughts on “The Problem with Pickpockets

  1. lindaloder says:

    These are excellent suggestions and I may pass them on in my courses if you don’t mind. Apart from London, we are usually hiking in the countryside and luckily have not experienced this problem. We also rent cars so apart from the airport, are not usually around masses of people. It is good to think of this situation however, because it could happen. It fits into one of my TASKS of independent travel – Security. Thanks for posting.

  2. Kati says:

    So sad, but true! I would add, be wary of those acting as if they are from charitable organizations with clipboards. Many times they will distract you with information about donating to their charity while an accomplice pickpockets you or your friends.

  3. JohnM says:

    if you are comfortable with this suggestion, you can also scan and then email electronic copies of your docs, credit cards, and the credit card helpline numbers to YOURSELF under an innocuous heading and/or into an innocuous folder, so if you can get online you can access your info that way too.

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