Summer vacation is finally here! Travel woes and issues that can be prevented July 16 2015, 0 Comments

Travel is wonderful. Experiencing new destination, meeting new people, swimming with dolphins, sipping wine in the Bourgogne, helping yourself to heaps of fresh pasta in Tuscany or tasting Spain’s Potatas Bravas for the first time - who knew potatoes could taste so good?  No matter what your destination or preferences, travel does enrich us is so many ways.

Unfortunately travel can also mean the complete opposite of enrichment - being stolen from. Pick pocketing is, and has basically always been, a huge problem for the travel industry. The travel industry doesn’t like to talk about it, as it would scare many people off traveling but on the other side, travelers do want to talk about it since they are the victims.

Cities such as Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, both known as the worst possible cities for pickpocketing, combat pickpocketing on a daily basis. Even New York, cleaned up as it is, fights pickpockets on a daily basis as hundreds of visitors fall prey daily. With countless incidents around the world every day, combating pickpocketing is a struggle. Just as in Dicken’s Oliver Twist, modern day pick pocketing is also organized: leagues of professionals are recruited and trained and they more often than not work in groups.

There are a few typical pick pocketing strategies and perpetrators that are most often used:

The lone perpetrators: They deftly maneuver under a newspaper or jacket, swiftly dipping into your bag or pocket.

The group act: A group work together, surrounding you, diverting your attention, maybe bumping into you, whilst the actual pickpocket does his/her job.

Gang attack: A blocker that stops you, a pusher that pushes you whilst a dipper grabs your valuables. Not refined but it is fast and efficient.

Distraction: The perpetrator may spill a drink or ice cream on you, apologize profusely, pat you dry clumsily and at the same time take what they can.

Bag slashers: simply cutting straps off of bags. The bag then simply slips down and the thieves grab it. They often operate in teams. They can easily do the same on neck bags (the thin travel bags that are placed like a necklace and the bag is hidden under your shirt, the problem is the strap is visible and so easy to cut off)  and waist bags/fanny packs.

The more resources the police put in, the more cunning the thieves get. The master minds recruit children, men and women indiscriminately. Most pickpockets are terribly hard off, they often come from poor countries and do this to survive, they are not necessarily evil, but their crimes are.

Are we fighting an uphill battle? Can pickpocketing be stopped? Tourists are still easy victims, they do not take the necessary precautions and most travelers simply do not even attempt to hide the fact that they are fresh off the plane, loaded with saved up vacation dollars, ready to spend it all on various trinkets, food and wine, and unwittingly, on thieves. The thieves know exactly whom to target and how. They are pros and unfortunately the tourists are not.

But stay calm. There are a few simple steps that can help any traveler keep what is theirs.

  1. Never ever put your wallet in your back pocket. That’s the first place thieves look.
  2. Don’t wear fanny packs. Nothing says tourist as loudly as a fanny pack and they are so easy to steal and steal from.
  3. Don’t toss your handbag casually across your back. Wear it underneath your arm, hold it close to you and zippered shut.
  4. Don’t hang your jacket or bag across the back of a restaurant chair. It doesn't get much easier than that for the thieves.
  5. Don’t put all your money and credit cards in one place: use the hotel safe and only bring what you need for the day.
  6. If you are backpacking and have everything on you: keep day to day money easily available and hide the rest well, preferable somewhere on your body, not in your backpack.
  7. Don’t flaunt your wealth: don’t bring your Rolex, or diamond bracelet or Louis Vuitton bags if you are going to be in for instance a crowded London stadium, being pushed here and there. Pickpockets adore crowds and you won’t ever notice them robbing you.
  8. Stay alert in crowds. If  a group of people suddenly surrounds you, as out of nowhere, be extra cautious. Stay calm, watch your belongings, and walk away, don’t interact with the group.
  9. Have a backup: if you do get pickpocketed: always have a backup. Have an extra credit card, ID and cash separate so you are not left penniless and stranded in a foreign place.
  10. Of course, if you are planning to sleep in a hostel or on a train, use special pickpocket and loss proof travel gear with zippered secret pockets that keep your valuables perfectly safe and undetectable such as the Clever Travel Companion’s travel tees, tanks and underwear.

A final note on travel insurance. Do make sure you are insured and if you lose everything, report it immediately, save the police report and call the insurance company asap, within 24 hours. Many, many travelers have been left without compensation because they waited till they got home to report a theft to their insurer. Insurance companies are not dumb, just cheap, and the fine print is in their benefit, not yours. Most insurance companies require certain steps to be taken immediately after an incident for any compensation to be paid out.

Remember: pickpockets do not look a certain way, they do not advertise. Yes, there are still easy recognizable gangs and recruited groups of children that surround you in certain cities, but pickpockets come in all colors, sizes and genders. The best ones act and look just like you and me.