Regardless of where you live, pickpocketing is prevalent. Skilled thieves can steal valuables as you walk by, and most victims don’t even notice. Of course, that is one of the reasons why pockets became popular in clothing. It is also the reason why there are already a lot of items used to prevent pickpockets or theft.
Around the 17th century, men and women used satchels or purses to carry their items, but it became too bothersome to carry around. Pouches were then tied inside the clothes to thwart thieves, but thieves easily adapted and learned to remove the goods from waistcoats, trousers, and jacket pockets.
During the 20th century, American prosecutors cracked down on pickpockets and required that all children be educated, which kept young thieves off the streets. Over time, fewer “master” thieves were out there to pass along the trade, and few kids were willing or able to learn the crime because it took many years to perfect. With the decline of cash usage, pickpockets are even harder to come by.
Even though pickpocketing is on the decline and has been for the last 50 years, it’s still prevalent in many foreign countries.
The Problem with Pickpocketing
Since cash isn’t considered the easiest method of payment, most people use debit or credit cards. With technology advancements, you can also use a smartphone or tablet to pay for items. However, pickpocketing has also advanced; thieves can swipe your debit or credit card information and banking details from your phone or from inside your wallet with the right tools.
While local law enforcement agencies rarely take pickpocketing to be a serious crime, the victim suffers insurmountably. Having a wallet stolen takes away the money they carried, but also causes significant worry and costs time (and money).
Credit agencies must be alerted, credit or debit cards have to be canceled and resent, and your driver’s license and other IDs must be replaced. If you were traveling overseas, you’ll need to get a new passport, which can delay travel plans, cost more to get a trip home, and more.
How to Not Get Pickpocketed
With so many worries to deal with on a daily basis, the last thing you want to worry about is having your money or possessions stolen. A few helpful tips can help to prevent getting mugged, including:
1. Be Aware
The first thing you should do is always be aware of the situation in which you find yourself. Pay attention to the people around you. If you notice a skirmish on the street, hold your bag a little tighter because it could be a distraction.
While you shouldn’t be fearful of every passing person, you can notice signs that someone is acting strangely or suspicious. If you notice this, consider alerting a local police officer or going into a shop or public place and asking for assistance.
2. Know Thieves
No, you probably don’t associate with thieves and criminals, but it is important that you know who they could be and how they might act. Pickpockets can come in every color and race. Don’t assume that you’re not going to get pickpocketed if you steer clear of particular “types” of people.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind about thieves:
- They tend to work in groups.
In most cases, a couple of people in the team distract you while the accomplice steals the items. Thus, if you see three to five people who act like they’re trying to catch your attention, it’s likely a ploy to steal from you.
- They can be children.
While most pickpockets are grown men, many pickpockets are also young girls and boys. Children often look innocent so they can get away with what adults can’t.
In some cases, the children are required to pickpocket for the parents. Tourists rarely think that children are going to be criminals so the youngster can get closer to you without being suspicious. Also, while you are most likely to encounter child pickpockets in Europe, that doesn’t mean you should think all children are innocent in other countries or areas.
- They’re usually well-dressed.
When most people imagine thieves and criminals, they think of dirty people with raggedy clothing and forlorn appearances. In reality, most pickpockets are well-dressed and look like average middle-class people.
The goal for them is to blend in with the environment and appear non-threatening to people like you. They dress to put people at ease, which means they have to wear popular brands and look clean.
3. Know Where They Prefer to Work
While you can encounter a pickpocket anywhere, some places tend to hold more pickpockets than normal. These can include:
- They ride on public transportation.
Public transportation, such as buses and subways, require people to stand near to each other, so it’s an excellent time to get pickpocketed. If someone bumps you, someone else might be stealing your wallet and hop off at the next exit before you know anything’s gone.
- They frequent tourist attractions.
Local tourist attractions are the perfect places for pickpockets. For one, most tourists carry cash, and for another, you’re distracted by the exhibits and monuments. Along with such, there’s more traffic in these areas, so you’re less likely to notice that a pickpocket has bumped into you.
If you’re planning to visit a popular attraction when traveling, it’s best to wear minimal jewelry and use one credit card or a pre-paid card.
- They have to eat and hydrate, too.
Pickpockets can also go to bars and restaurants that are popular for tourists. Patrons are focused on their food or beverage and who they’re dining with, so they aren’t likely to notice a hand dipping into their purse.
- They can lurk in hotel lobbies.
Hotel lobbies are the perfect place for a pickpocket to grab your things. When you arrive at the hotel, you’re probably juggling your items and trying to keep track of your entire luggage. Pickpockets will take advantage of that.
We have provided you some great tips on how to not get pickpocketed and it all boils down to becoming aware of your surroundings and vigilant. You can also avoid being victimized by understanding more about how a pickpocket works.