Anywhere in the world, there’s no shortage of pickpockets and petty criminals who won’t hesitate to take your valuables away from you. Especially in world-class cities, you’re bound to encounter this folk. Law enforcement officers are often very lax when it comes to these crimes, which gives them more opportunity to prey on innocent bystanders. So, travelers and locals alike are expected to take extra precautions to prevent these unfortunate incidents from happening.
In this guide, we will teach you some of the most common pickpocket schemes and how to prevent them from happening.
3 Common Pickpocket Schemes
Pickpockets have many tricks under their sleeve. Some of their schemes involve playing the role of a helpful stranger. Their schemes come in many forms, so be vigilant.
Here are three travel scams to avoid:
- Charity mugging
Charity muggers, also known as chuggers, often pretend to be deaf individuals or volunteers from charity organizations. With a clipboard in hand, they approach their targets and ask them to sign a petition. Some will ask for a donation, which, of course, is for a bogus charity. Others will steal your valuables right under your nose as you’re distracted by the petition.
- Metro mugging
Pickpockets would often wait for foreign tourists in the metro and would offer to help you buy a ticket. If you let them, they will rip you off. These pickpockets charge unsuspecting tourists exorbitant amounts for a metro ticket. Sometimes, a seemingly friendly stranger would offer to carry your luggage for you. Once you hand it to them, they will flee as fast as they can, with your bags in their hand.
- Golden Ring Scam
One of the most common street scams in Paris, France, is the golden ring scam. The pickpockets would approach you, claiming that you dropped a ring. Even if you say it isn’t yours, they will offer to give it to you. Once you accept, they will ask for some money. They usually come up with a depressing story about how poor they are and will use that to demand more money.
How to Avoid Being Pickpocketed
Never make yourself an easy target. Follow these simple tips to prevent seemingly innocent strangers from stealing from you.
- Don’t hand over your belongings.
Don’t assume that a woman or a teenager won’t steal from you. Thieves come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and ages.
- Be careful around high-traffic areas.
Pickpockets usually perform their schemes in high-traffic areas like tourist attractions, where you have limited personal space. They can nick your valuables out of your bag without you noticing and fade into the crowd before you realize something’s missing.
- Keep your valuables in pickpocket-proof clothing. Whenever you’re traveling, you can store important items in lightweight anti-theft bags or clothing with hidden pockets.
Don’t let those pickpockets stop you from going out and exploring what the world has to offer. Exude more confidence when you travel by doing your research ahead of time. Look up everything you need to know about the area. Keep all your valuables in pickpocket-proof gear like our Clever Travel Companion clothing so you can make good memories that are worth telling.
Not all pickpockets like to hang around crowded tourist attractions. Some of them like to pick easy targets at ATMs, where people are vulnerable. Pickpockets might be a crafty bunch, but you can outsmart them by being aware of their tactics and by using anti-theft proof gear.
How the Schemes Work
Aside from card skimming, pickpocketing is a common crime around ATM areas. These street thieves know you have money. If they watch your every move, they’ll know where you’re keeping your cash and valuables as well. Once pickpockets have that information, they will steal your wallet or your money before you can walk away.
Sometimes, pickpockets work in pairs. One member will watch you closely as you enter your PIN number. The other will drop cash and ask you if it’s yours. If you pick that up, the other member will quickly take out your ATM card. This works when you are distracted, and you forget that you didn’t retrieve your card. Often, the scam also works when victims assume that the machine sucked in their card when they weren’t looking.
After successfully retrieving your card, the pickpockets will go to another ATM machine to withdraw money from your account.
How to Protect Yourself
To keep your money safe, always be alert, pay attention to any suspicious behavior, and don’t forget to wear your pickpocket-proof gear.
- Stash your money in a travel scarf. Pickpockets won’t be able to reach your cash if you store it inside a scarf with hidden zippered pockets. You can tuck you cash, passport, and cellphone inside these pockets, where they aren’t visible to street thieves.
- Invest in pickpocket-proof clothing. Use pickpocket-proof clothes such as shirts, hoodies, and jackets. They look like any of your regular clothes, but these anti-theft versions have hidden zippered pockets where you can keep your money safe.
- Budget your money. Take enough cash for the day, and leave most of it in a safe in your hotel room. Budget your money wisely so you won’t have to withdraw extra cash from an ATM.
- Stop touching the location of your valuables. Refrain from touching the areas where you’re keeping your valuables so pickpockets who are observing you won’t know where to target.
- Minimize the number of valuables you have. Don’t give pickpockets the opportunity to spot possible things they can steal from you. Carry only the valuables that you need. Leave the rest in your hotel room, preferably inside a vault or any locked container.
- Carry cash in different pockets. Store your cash in various places so you can keep most of it protected. Even if they do steal some of it, there’ll be a good chance you still have enough left to enjoy your vacation or to travel back home.
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