Pickpockets are always coming up with creative ideas to steal from you without you noticing. I have witnessed multiple pickpockets and by the time people realized what happened, the thief was long gone. (Thankfully I have never been a victim!)
What is the best way to avoid the scams of pickpockets? Don’t make it easy for them! The bottom line is to not keep your valuables within their reach.
1.) Wear a money belt
Keep your passport, cash and credit cards secure in a money belt. It feels strange at first, but you really do get used to it. You can go out during the day without the belt, just make sure to leave these items in a secure place back at the hotel. Especially wear your belt when travelling from the airport to your hotel. Pickpockets often target places near public transportation and if you have your suitcase, it can be assumed you also have your passport and large amounts of cash.
2.) Don’t keep items of great value inside your purse
I always keep any maps, makeup, itineraries and small cash in my purse. If you have to have a credit/debit card in your purse, only keep one in your purse and hide the rest in your money belt. That way if it does get stolen you can easily cancel the card but will still have a backup card somewhere else.
3.) Carefully choose which purse you bring
The harder it is to get inside your purse, the more protected you will be. Bring a purse that has lots of zippers and clasps. And make sure you close it each time!
4.) Be careful when withdrawing from an ATM
Only withdraw during the day and make sure no one approaches you or distracts you when withdrawing. It’s a good idea to have a friend keep a look out for you to make sure no one approaches you. Hide your money as soon as you can and don’t sift through your money at the ATM. (AKA don’t let them see how much you have!)
5.) Be careful where you place your purse/backpack
In America we are so used to placing our purse on our chair at a restaurant. I actually had a woman approach me in France because I did just that. She told me that thieves love to run by and snag your purse off your chair. The good news is that I didn’t have any valuables in my purse, but it is still an important lesson. Be especially careful when you are sitting on an outside patio at a restaurant. You are in a prime spot for thieving.
6.) Especially look after your backpack
Backpacks are easy targets because (guess what?) it’s on your back. Don’t place anything of value in easy reach. If you have something valuable that you have to place inside (ipad, cameras, etc.) then either wear the backpack backwards or tie the zippers together. I know it’s not the most convenient, but better than the inconvenience of losing it!
7.) Guys: don’t leave your wallet in your back pocket
I don’t think this one even needs an explanation.
8.) Be careful with your smart phone
Don’t take it out unless you are in a safe area and are very aware of your surroundings. Also make sure it is password protected. The last thing you want is all of your information compromised. You don’t want some stranger to have access to all your email and social media accounts (not to mention possibly bank information).
An extra tip here: Upload pictures onto an external drive or make sure it’s backing up to the cloud as you go along on your trip. The last thing you want if you lose your camera or phone is to lose all your photos with it! I thought I lost my phone in Switzerland and I panicked because I had so many amazing photos that I had not backed up. It is easy to upload pictures to Google Drive or email the important ones to yourself (or a family member or a friend!).
9.) Be extra alert in tourist areas
They tend to be extra crowded, which makes it easier for pickpockets, plus there are obviously tourists everywhere.
10.) Keep valuable information in a different spot
Before you leave, write down the international phone numbers of your credit card companies in case anything does happen. Keep that information in a different spot than where you keep your cards. That way you can cancel any credit cards as soon as they are stolen. Also before you leave, take a picture of your insurance cards and passport and email the images to yourself. If you do lose your passport it is much easier to get it replaced if you have a copy.