year, thousands of travelers fall prey to the quick and clever tactics
of pickpockets and thieves. What may take thieves a moment to "lift"
from your pockets (passports, credit cards, airline tickets) may
take weeks to replace, turning your pleasant vacation into a
It is difficult to recognize these changeling
thieves - sometimes the well-dressed businessman standing next to
you who just dropped some coins, at other times the "friendly" group
of young children with newspapers approaching you in a city subway.
A thief may be hard to recognize, but their time-tested
tactics are not. Travelers can prevent the majority of common thefts
by arming themselves with the knowledge of typical scams, following
some basic travel safety tips and using security products.
A typical three person team of thieves includes the "stall" (who
positions himself in front of you and draws your attention), the "dip"
(who acts upon your moment of distraction to pick your pocket or
purse), and a third person who receives your valuables and casually
and quietly disappears into the crowd.
Some rely upon your kindness by dropping something on the chance you'll
help them pick it up, asking for directions, or even faking an
accident that somehow seems to be your fault or beg for your
involvement. Thieves put their faith in your good character to the
extreme, as in the case of a tourist sitting on a Caribbean beach
who went into the water to save a 'drowning swimmer' only to return
to find his valuables stolen.
Others "accidentally" bump
into you and another "kind" person catches you from falling. In
reality, you have just fallen into their trap. Pickpockets have been
known to soil your clothes with toothpaste, ash, or ice cream. A
second member of the team points out the spill to you, pointing skyward
to the potential culprit and offers to help you clean up. This is
the perfect set up for a theft, or even a mugging.
some African countries, the "stall" approaches the traveler with arms
outstretched, and a friendly smile on his face. While he embraces
you, another thief strikes you on the back, creating enough
distraction to lift your valuables.
Children as thieves:
Schooling for thieves starts very early. A traveler was seated on a
crowded bus in Rome on her way to the Vatican. She glanced down at
her lap to find a tiny little hand reaching into her now unzipped
fanny pack. The child could not have been more than 6 years old.
Groups of children have been known to gang up on unsuspecting
travelers as well. One common scenario is the newspaper trick. A
group of children approach the unsuspecting tourist and ask for
money or try to sell you knick knacks as they jab at you with
newspapers or cardboard. The papers effectively block your view of
little hands fast at work, opening pockets, slashing belts, and
cleaning out your travel funds. If you do catch on, usually the
shock of being robbed by children delays your reaction a moment
more, making for a successful robbery.
Know how they work:
Familiarize yourself with the typical scams thieves use to rob
travelers. By recognizing their time-tested scenarios ahead of time,
you will recognize situations to avoid, and keep your attention
focused on your valuables, not on their intentional distractions.
Research the area:
Find out where the bad parts of the city or countryside are by
reading up on the country before you get there, and ask the hotel
staff for more specific information once you arrive. Tourist offices
and other areas promoting travel to a specific region may be
inclined to play down any negative aspects of the area. Rely on
newspapers, magazines and official agencies to give you more
If you prefer a daybag, consider
using a bag with steel belted straps that prevents cut and run
theft. These steel cabled straps foil most surgical blades, and keep
your fanny pack, purse or day bag from disappearing into the crowd.
A money belt looks like a regular belt, but includes a
zippered pouch for valuables. A neck wallet loops around your neck
and tucks comfortably down inside your shirt. A waist wallet is worn
like a belt beneath your garments next to your skin, where it would
be highly difficult for a casual thief to reach without your
knowledge. The hidden wallet attaches to your belt with a choice of
two colored loops for discretion in matching your belt, or pins to
your clothing. Once again, this item is worn inside your clothing, out
Do not draw attention to yourself by wearing fancy clothing or
jewelry. You are setting yourself up as a target. Instead, leave the
jewelry at home and wear travel clothes with special, hidden
security pockets. Choose looser fitting clothing that is not only
comfortable for travel, but also leaves room for more subtle use of
hidden security wallets.
Divide up your funds so that if
your wallet is taken, you have a back up supply (in your socks or
elsewhere) to get you back on track.
Don't show your
money. Pickpockets observe travelers when shopping, and then later
know exactly where to lift your wallet.
If someone taps
you on the right shoulder, train yourself to turn to the left, and
vice versa. This will prevent a purse from being slipped off your
opposite shoulder, or momentarily diverting your attention.
If you must use a wallet, carry it in the front pocket, and put a
rubber band around it, or use a chain to attach it to your clothing.
Don't accept food or drinks from strangers. They may
contain drugs that will knock you out, creating opportunity for a
thorough robbery or worse.
Source: Magellan's Travel