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Pickpockets

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in pickpockets

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This is a WikiTravel travel topic.

Pickpockets are a hazard in nearly any tourist destination. After all, tourists - by definition - have disposable income, and are likely to be carrying some money and/or valuables.

Be especially worried in areas where the local income is low, or where you are extremely conspicuous because you are a different ethnic group from locals or you dress/behave very differently. For example, in China, many farmers and some urban folk make less than US $50 a month. Most tourists can afford to spend that amount for one night in a hotel, so they are an obvious target for theft.

This article covers only pickpockets, not the various other crimes that may be committed against travellers. See Common scams for some of them.

pickpockets Travel Guide :

Pickpockets

Pickpocket techniques

Pickpockets use a variety of techniques, not all of them covered here.

Pickpockets

Hit the easy targets

A skilled pickpocket can hit any pocket, but all pickpockets prefer easy targets. The easiest targets are pockets that are easy to get at, preferably out the victim's field of vision. The most attractive are are away from the body where the victim will not feel a thief's touch:

  • open bags, especially shopping bags with an interesting store label
  • outside pockets of a backpack or shoulder bag

Others are only a bit harder:

  • rear or thigh pocket of trousers
  • outside pockets on a man's jacket or other loose-fitting outer garment
  • anything hanging or your belt, such as a cell phone or fanny pack

Do not carry valuables in these places. In particular, do not put all your money in a back pocket wallet.

Pickpockets

Carry a razor

Pickpockets everywhere routinely carry razors for slitting pockets. These may also be used to quickly cut the strap on a purse, shoulder bag, or camera. In some places they may even be for armed robbery. Check the country listings for your destinations.

Pickpockets

Work in teams

Pickpockets often work in teams. For example, getting on a crowded bus, one ahead of you may create a delay so the one behind can get your wallet. One may distract the victim's attention while the other reaches into a pocket on the other side. The loot may be immediately handed off to a third player, so even if you grab the actual thief, there is no evidence and the item is lost to you.

Pickpockets

Protecting yourself

The basics of protecting yourself are common sense:

  • know and avoid the most dangerous areas
  • be alert
  • stash valuables in hard-to-reach places (see following sections)
  • do not carry more cash than you are likely to need
  • carry money and passport in separate places, so that losing one doesn't mean losing the other as well
  • wear packs in front of you, not at the rear or side
  • deep front trouser pockets offer more protection than back pockets
  • dress inconspicuously, to not draw attention to yourself as a "rich foreigner"

Above all, do not flash your valuables around unnecesarily. An expensive watch on your wrist or fancy camera around your neck is quite a tempation to someone whose annual income may be less than its price.

Pickpockets

Attacking pickpockets

If a pickpocket has successfully pocketed your wallet, it is advisable to call "Thief!" in the language of your destination. In most cases in a crowded environment, the people will co-operate with you to at least attempt to catch the thief and report the loss to police and act as a witness. If in quieter places the best method to attack a pickpocketer is to punch the pickpocketer in the face or throw a projectile at the head.

Pickpockets

Money belts and pouches

There are many ways to stash your money and passport where it will be quite a bit more difficult to grab it.

Many urban outfitter or mountaneering type shops sell a money belt that you wear under your pants. These are typically nylon and have many pockets, so you can have cash, travellers cheques and passport separated. This is probably your most secure option since it is hard for a thief to reach and is in a sensitive area of the body; you are quite likely to notice someone touching you there. The only disadvantage is that some people find them inconvenient to access.

Another type of money belt is just a zipper sewn onto the inside surface of an ordinary belt. These are OK for money, but not passports. They can be bought in some travel-oriented shops, or are easily made.

Many travellers use a passport pouch which hangs under their shirt. Again, this is a sensitive area of the body; you will likely notice activity there. Make sure it has a secure strap and be careful not to wear it on the outside of your clothing, where it would be an easy snatch-and-run target.

Others use a leg pouch, worn under the pants or sometimes on the upper arm under a shirt.

Pickpockets

Defensive tailoring

If you sew, or can afford to hire a tailor (can you afford not to?), there are many ways to make clothing somewhat pickpocket-resistant.

Hong Kong tailors routinely put an extra pocket in a pair of pants, built into the waistband.

Simply adding fasteners - velcro, buttons or zippers - makes picking the pocket harder.

You can have additional pockets sewn into garments in odd places. Some possibilities are

  • sewing a zipper on the inside of a belt to make a money belt
  • sewing a long narrow pocket on the inside of a jacket, from high up near the lapel down diagonally to near the hip. Drop your wallet or passport in there and you have to reach in elbow-deep to get it
  • sewing a pocket on the surface of a backpack that goes nearest your body; nothing lumpy can be carried there, but money or a passport are OK

Some travellers have one garment - e.g. a jacket for a businessman, a denim vest for a budget traveller - which has extra pockets and which they almost never remove.


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