If you’ve ever been pickpocketed, you already know the sinking feeling of reaching for your wallet only to find it mysteriously missing – stolen, and you didn’t notice a thing.
This is not only an incredibly disheartening experience, but can also leave you stranded with no money or ID. It can happen to anyone, and it’s nearly impossible to catch the thief by the time you realize your wallet is gone.
But don’t worry. The best way to avoid an unfortunate experience is to learn how to prevent pickpocketing in the first place. Taking precautions like keeping your valuables concealed, watching for strange behavior in crowded places, and using a front pocket wallet can all help keep you from being victimized.
So, keep reading to learn more about how pickpockets operate, and how to keep your wallet safe from them.
What Methods Do Pickpockets Use?
Before you can truly outsmart a pickpocket, you first have to understand the methods they use to victimize people.
1. Bumping Into You
When most of us think of pickpockets, we envision a nondescript guy “accidentally” bumping into someone and swiping their wallet without them noticing.
While this is a method people use, it also requires more skill and expertise to pull off, so it’s not necessarily the most common means of pickpocketing. But if someone is bumping into you on the subway or in a crowded store, don’t ignore it!
2. Slash and Grab
Another common technique pickpockets use is the “slash and grab.” With this method, a thief sneakily cuts the strap of a purse or bag and swipes it without the person’s knowledge.
In this case, they may either take the entire bag with them or grab what they want from inside (wallets, phones, etc.) and leave the rest in a nearby dumpster or alleyway. For this reason, if you plan to carry a purse, look for one that you can carry in front of your body.
3. Using a Distraction
Believe it or not, many pickpockets actually work in teams.
Sometimes these groups operate by a member or two acting as a distraction – a child, someone looking for directions, a couple asking you to take their photo, you name it – while another person swipes your belongings.
Never EVER set your bag down to do a favor for a stranger, and be on guard if you have valuables that can be accessed while you’re not looking.
4. Taking Advantage of Crowds
If you’ve ever been in a significantly crowded area, you know exactly how distracting it can be. Between all the noise, and your attention focused on navigating through the people around you, it’s easy for a pickpocket to swipe your valuables while you try to squeeze through an alley, onto a bus, or into a store.
5. ‘Mr. Nice Guy’
This one is particularly common among travelers. A thief may approach you, offering to help you with your bags or luggage. Then, when you hand them your belongings, they disappear into a crowd with everything you have.
If you’re on a trip and “Mr. Nice Guy” appears, politely decline and carry your own luggage. Even if he was a genuinely good person, there’s no harm done.
How to Prevent Pickpocketing
Now that you know the methods people use to swipe your valuables right from under you, here are some tips for how to not get pickpocketed.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
The very first thing you should do to prevent pickpocketing is simply pay attention to your surroundings.
While this may sound like a simple thing to do, it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds, especially if you’re sightseeing or staring at your phone like most of us do these days.
But in all seriousness, practice situational awareness when out in public – especially in crowded environments. If you see any strange behavior, move away from that person. Remember, a good rule of thumb is if something seems suspicious, it probably is.
Carry a Front Pocket Wallet
By far the best way to avoid being victimized by a pickpocket is to keep your valuables secure and in a place that’s difficult for them to access.
While there are tons of products on the market designed to ward off pickpockets, including anti-theft slash-proof bags, money belts, and wallets you wear around your neck, the ultimate pickpocket-proof accessory is a front pocket wallet.
Not only do they keep you safe without making you look like a dork, but they also prevent all kinds of pickpocketing rather than just the traditional type.
Allow us to explain.
Front pocket wallets are designed to be carried in, you guessed it, the front pocket of your pants or jacket. They’re slim, about the same dimensions as a credit card, so it’s likely a pickpocket won’t notice it’s there in the first place. And even if they do, they will be hard-pressed to swipe your wallet from the front pocket of your pants, literally right under your nose.
Beyond that, front pocket wallets feature RFID-blocking technology, which gives you an added layer of security against digital pickpockets who work by scanning the chips embedded in many credit cards and IDs and stealing your personal information that way.
For the ultimate secure, stylish, and durable front pocket wallet, check out the entire selection of GeoGrit wallets. Not only are they protective, but they’re made in the USA and backed by a lifetime warranty.
Don't Flaunt Your Wealth
Oftentimes, preventing pickpockets from targeting you is simply a matter of not letting them know you have any valuables in the first place.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t carry that designer purse, or wear your expensive jewelry out in public. After all, if you have it, use it! What it does mean is that you should avoid showing these items off in crowded areas, while traveling, or in what may feel like a “sketchy” area.
All these items tend to do is tell the world that you are worth stealing from. For that reason, some of the best advice for how to avoid pickpockets is to leave your fancy accessories at home so you can blend in with the crowd (or at least keep it to a minimum).
Don’t Keep Checking Your Wallet
When you’re in a place where pickpocketing is a risk, it’s easy to habitually check your wallet to make sure it’s still there. But this is actually counterproductive.
Pickpockets aren’t stupid. They watch the people around them to decide who will be an easy target, and who they think will be the biggest payoff. When you reach down to pat your wallet, you just alerted a pickpocket to where you’re keeping your valuables – and you’re telling them you have something worth stealing.
In many cities where pickpocketing is common, there are signs warning people to watch out for them. Nine times out of ten, when a tourist sees a sign like this, they immediately grab their wallet to make sure it’s there. Pickpockets know you’re going to do this and use the warning to their advantage. These thieves will often hang out near these signs, just waiting for someone to fall for it.
Don't Get Distracted
Pickpockets like to prey on nice people. And, if you count yourself among that group (no matter what your friends say about you!) you’ll have to be extra careful not to fall for a pickpocketing scheme.
As we’ve already mentioned, many pickpockets work in teams. They often use seemingly vulnerable people – like a lost child or a pregnant woman with a heavy bag – to distract you while their teammate robs you blind.
So, while we’re not saying you should ignore someone in need, you should be careful to pay attention to your surroundings. If it seems suspicious, keep walking. If you think someone really may need help, stay alert and don’t let anyone sneak up behind you while you do your good deed.
Trust Your Instincts
Last but not least, trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is, and you don’t need an excuse to walk away.
Your subconscious mind is extremely good at picking up subtle cues that something isn’t right. You never want to ignore yourself if your gut is telling you something is wrong. Even if the threat isn’t immediately apparent, it’s best to trust yourself and keep moving.
We’ll say it again – TRUST YOUR GUT.
What to Do If You’ve Been Pickpocketed
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a pickpocket, don’t despair. It can happen to anyone, sometimes even when you take precautions.
Here’s what to do if you’ve been pickpocketed:
First, stay calm. By taking action as soon as possible, you can avoid some of the more serious consequences of having your wallet stolen.
Second, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately to report your cards stolen. They can place a freeze on your accounts so the pickpocket can’t spend any of your hard-earned money.
Next, set up a fraud alert through one of the three national credit bureaus to ensure no one can open a new line of credit in your name.
Once these things are done, you should file a police report. This will not only alert the authorities to the theft, but it will also create a paper trail in the event you become a victim of fraud or need it to get a new driver’s license.
Finally, replace your ID and anything else that was in your wallet (and the wallet itself!). For more details about the steps you should take, check out our article “What to Do if You Lose Your Wallet.”
Worst Cities for Pickpockets
Even though pickpocketing can happen anywhere, like most crimes, the prevalence of pickpockets varies from city to city. So, to help you gauge your risk, here are the top 10 worst cities for pickpockets in the world:
- Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain
- Rome, Italy
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Madrid, Spain
- Paris, France
- Florence, Italy
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Athens, Greece
- Hanoi, Vietnam
In conclusion, pickpocketing is a common crime that can happen to anyone. However, by following the above tips and tricks, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Some of the top tips for how to prevent pickpocketing include remembering to be aware of your surroundings, keeping your valuables secure, and trusting your instincts. Most importantly, invest in a front pocket wallet designed to protect you from digital and traditional pickpockets alike.For a durable minimalist wallet that’s made in the USA, check out our entire collection at GeoGrit.com. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and follow our blog to keep up on all our latest content.