It’s one of the worst things that can happen to you abroad, an experience that can put a huge damper on your entire trip: you walk around town, enjoying the sights, and when you stop at a store or a restaurant and it’s time to pay up, you start patting yourself at an increasingly frantic pace, digging through your pockets and bags- it’s all useless, you’ve been robbed.
Pickpockets are a problem no matter where you go, whether in East Asia, South America or Western Europe, and the more touristy the spot, the more popular it is among swindlers and thieves. Should that deter you from traveling all the same? Absolutely not, as you can easily foil their plans following these easy steps:
1. Keep your valuables close to your skin and at the front
Never keep your phone, passport or wallet in your back pocket while traveling. Instead, keep them in your pants’ front pocket, or in an inner pocket in your jacket. Another option is to keep your valuables inside a money belt tucked under your shirt. If you’re carrying a wallet in one of your pockets, tight-fitting clothes may behoove you, as those are harder to steal from.
Do not keep items of great value in a purse, backpack or clutch bag, as anything that isn’t on your person can easily be stolen.
2. Be on your guard in crowded areas
Crowded places are a pickpocket’s favorite haunt. Whenever you find yourself in such areas, be aware of what’s going on around you, and especially people walking in your direction. Don’t let anyone bump into you and guard your personal space jealously. If someone seems to be in your trajectory, veer away.
3. Be especially careful around ATMs
ATMs are particularly appealing to robbers. Be especially mindful of your environment when pulling out cash and when you’re taking out your wallet to put the money inside, and always cover the keypad while entering your PIN code. On one hand, keep a safe distance from other people, on the other, choose a public, well-lit ATM. More alarmingly, robbers don’t need to be present in order to rob you at an ATM, as sophisticated card-skimming technology allows them to scan your credit card details and PIN code. When approaching an ATM, give the card slot a little tug and shake. If the card slot moves, choose a different ATM.
4. Keep your valuables on you at all times
This isn’t merely a rehashing of point no. 1. If you’re sitting at a restaurant and you’re taking off your jacket, make sure to move anything of value into your front pockets, and don’t leave your phone on the table. In this case, it’s not just good etiquette, it may save your phone from getting picked up.
5. Don’t let anyone approach you
A popular modus operandi for pickpockets is to begin what appears to be a benign interaction, during which they get the victim’s focus on something so that they or an accomplice can rob you blind. Some spill a drink on you, only to apologize profusely and begin to wipe your jacket down (removing the stain AND the money!), others approach with a petition and a pen and pat you down while you’re busying yourself with the clipboard and the pen. In the case of petitioners (“deaf-mutes” are especially common), it’s possible they’re *just* a scam artist looking for donations, and not necessarily pickpockets. Regardless, do not let any stranger approach you for any reason, and don’t accept help from them, either.
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