9 Strategies to Sidestep Tourist Pickpockets

Beware of Pickpockets

One of the hazards of being a tourist is that you are more exposed to the activities of thieves.  Here are nine strategies to avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets.

Opportunity Theft

If you are careless with your valuables then in many countries thieves will take what you have very easily.  If you put your valuables out of your sight, such as sunglasses on your head or a camera or handbag hanging on your shoulder, or a backpack on your back, then an experienced thief will easily take those items or the items inside.  If you put valuables into exposed pockets (eg. jacket, trousers, coat pockets) then these items are also at risk from a single thief.

Distract then Steal

A common team tactic of thieves is to distract you and then steal your valuables.  Typical distraction scenarios are:

  • In a crowded area (eg. train carriage, bus, tourist attraction) one or more people will walk through with something covering their hands. For example, a pretend or real baby in a sling, or a flap of cloth, or a newspaper.  While you can’t see your waist or their hands they or a team member will steal from your pockets, handbag or backpack.
  • Someone may throw a baby or item at you.  When you raise your hands to catch it a team member will steal from your pockets, handbag or backpack.
  • A person will hold up a ring or coin and ask if you dropped it.  While you respond a team member will steal from your pockets, handbag or backpack.
  • If you are self-distracted whilst taking a photo or video, or are talking on your phone a thief may approach behind you and steal from your pockets, handbag or backpack.

Theft Prevention Strategies

There are nine strategies to reduce the risk and impact of your valuables being stolen as follows:

  1. Take out a travel insurance policy before you commence travelling.  This means that if your valuables are stolen that you have options to be repaid the value of the items.
  2. Minimise the number of valuables you take with you when travelling.
  3. Keep as many valuables as possible in a hotel safe.
  4. If a hotel safe is not an option, keep your valuables in either a money belt or passport holder which is kept under your clothes.  Have a small wallet or purse with only your daily cash inside so you are not reaching under your clothes for each transaction.
  5. Don’t keep valuables in open pockets.  Wallets, phones and sunglasses are all at risk.
  6. Be aware when you are in a crowded situation such as public transport or a tourist attraction that thieves may be active and be more alert.
  7. If you have valuables in your bag or backpack, ensure it is located in front of you where you can see it at all times.
  8. If you need to make or receive a phone call move to a location where you have a wall at your back so you only need to watch a smaller area.
  9. If you are travelling with others watch out for each other and note if anyone around you is behaving suspiciously.  Be obvious that you are watching and the thieves are unlikely to bother you.

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