Backpacks are designed to be worn at the back with the straps over each shoulder. They are great choices for traveling both to work and casual trips, and come with several compartments to organize your stuff. One of the biggest questions that gets thrown around a lot among people shopping for a backpack is are backpacks safe from pickpockets?
Backpacks are in fact a favorite target for petty thieves, given that they are worn in such a position that doesn’t allow you to look over them. Adding to this, they are also easy to access by simply opening the zippers, or slashing the bag with a pocket knife. Pickpocketing is rampant in busy areas such as subways and tourist spots, mostly because thieves can make way with your stuff without raising an alarm.
And if you carry sensitive documents such as your credit cards and passport on the go in your backpack, you have one more thing to worry about – electronic theft. As technology evolves, thieves are now able to use RFID (radio frequency identification) readers to scan data from your credit cards and passport without you even knowing it.
Popular Tactics used by Pickpockets
Before getting into the precautionary measures you can take to protect your belongings against pickpockets, it is important to educate yourself on some of the tactics thieves use to rip you off.
Distraction of any type
This is one of the most common stealing techniques, which generally entails someone bumping into you to cause a distraction, while the accomplice either grabs your backpack and runs away with it or skims your data with a RFID card reader. One of the best ways to prevent theft when someone bumps into you is to quickly release one of the backpack’s straps from your shoulder and pull it towards the front.
Bird mess scam
Also referred to as the bird pop scam, this tactic involves someone discreetly squirting bird poop on your clothes, pointing it out to you, and then being the good Samaritan and offering to clean up the mess. In the event this does happen, it is important that you focus on your backpack rather than what in most cases is fake bird poop, because that can be easily cleaned away later.
The bird poop generally lands on your back or shoulder, prompting you to take off the backpack to clean it up. An aggressive stranger eager to help you is red flag, because no one wants to clean bird poop especially when not dropped on them. If a stranger does tell you that you have bird poop or any type of stain on you, it is recommended that you thank them for letting you know and walk away.
Thieves pretending to be charity workers will generally approach you to donate money or sign a petition, and steal your stuff if you decide to sign up. If you give them cash, you’ve just handed the dog a bone!
Other ways to avoid pickpocketing is by avoiding picking up stuff that may have dropped such as a wallet, and accepting something from a stranger that doesn’t belong to you such as a gold ring, or a $10 bill.
How to Protect your Backpack from Pickpockets
Whether you’re carrying a wallet in your back pocket or a backpack on your back, the fact is that both become highly susceptible to theft when set in that position. Just like the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure,” there are a few things you can do to safeguard the valuables in your backpack from both electronic and physical theft.
Carry the right type of bag
If you’re just going to be running small errands where you do not need to carry a whole bunch of stuff, it is a good idea to use a smaller bag such as a sling bag that you can carry at the front.
Buy an anti-theft backpack
Due to the surge in pickpocketing and electronic theft, most manufactures now produce backpacks with anti-theft features. These include slash resistant construction, lockable compartments and special RFID-reader proof dedicated slots for your credit cards and passport.
It is important to note that this range of bags do not eradicate the chances of pickpocketing, but greatly reduce its chances, so it’s important that you always remain alert. Most of the best antitheft backpacks can even be secured to a stationary object such as a chair or pole, which makes it harder for thieves to grab and go.
Keep your zippers zipped
It goes without saying that the zippers of your bag must be fully zipped before you set out, but people tend to leave them open or forget to close them when in a rush out the door or when opening the backpack to get something out of it while on the go. When buying a backpack, it is important to check the quality of the zippers to ensure they aren’t flimsy, and the overall construction of the bag.
Use multiple spots
People generally tend to put all their valuables in one compartment to gain easy access to them while on the go. This is not a wise idea, because a thief will strike gold from just one compartment rather than making an extra effort to steal from other areas of the backpack. Best thing to do is keep the less valuables things in the front area of the backpack, and things such as your wallet or jewelry in the inner pockets or you can divide them between two to three dedicated areas of the bag.
Wear your backpack at the front
Even though the name may suggest otherwise, wearing your backpack on your front side allows you to keep a close eye on it at all times especially if you’re moving through crowded areas or public transportation.
Are backpacks safe from pickpockets? Absolutely not and you know exactly why and the common tactics thieves use to steal your valuables. If you don’t have an anti-theft backpack yet, following the advice above could greatly reduce the chances of pickpocketing.