Pick Pockets in Europe

I’m going to throw this question out there for comment and hope for some solid responses. I’m back in Europe again and this time Central Europe. I think we all know that it’s going into the high season for toursits, but it’s also high season for the pick pockets that prey on tourists. I raise this question for a couple of reasons? My partner takes Thai tourists to many places around the world, but most recently both Western and Eastern Europe. On the two last tours one to Switzerland and currently Germany and the Czech Republic and his groups have been victims of pick pockets. One guy lost 3,000 Euro’s and his passport, 2 others passports, and 3 more lost a combined 5,000 Euro’s. First question is why are they carrying that kind of money and why are they carrying their passport. This is not the first time this has happened.

I was in Lisbon in March on the infamous #15 tourist tram and I smelled a rat. 3 guys crowded around me and pushed me trying to get me to take my hands out of my pockets. I try to know better and not remove my hands, one guy got my knee in his nether regions and the other got his head elbowed for which I smiled and told them to ************** or they would be on the way out the open tram door! I’m a big guy and take no crap, but if I were a woman or unattentive guy, they would have had a field day unless it were a savey traveler who is aware

How do you protect yourself from pick-pockets? Do you carry your passport with you at all times? Do you use a money belt? Have you been a victim of pick pockets? Are you a proactive traveler who is on the defensive or passive and a potential victim?

Time of my life 28/05/13    Moneyworld Link Report

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My first response was the same as yours mate, why the hell where they carrying that amount of cash plus their passport around with them?!?!

But in answer to your excellent question, I do like to think of myself as a proactive, experienced and savvy traveler. I’m a big guy too, 6″2 with a fair amount of muscle, and military and martial arts training so from a physical confrontation point of view I am generally quite confident when travelling. I think my size alone deters a few problems, as does the fact that I generally exude confidence (even when I don’t feel it). People who look and act like victims tend to become them.

But other than this (and I realise not everyone has those advantages the way I do) I do practice what I preach when I give safety tips and advice out too.

My biggest advantage is situational awareness. Of course I have my off days, get tired or shell shocked from travel/awed by certain sights etc the same as everyone else, I’m not infallible. But in general I am aware of who is around me, who looks shifty, where the exits are etc, and my alarm bells go off if – like you say – I get crowded/bumped into/a stranger wants to get too close or touch me etc. I have become comfortable in this state over the years so that I do it without thinking about it now, and reasonable precaution doesn’t spill over into outright paranoia.

I also try to be aware of the latest and most common scams in the areas I am visiting. For example an extremely common scam when I was in India a few years back was for local youths to want to pose for photos with you, one of the group would hold the camera and take a photo while his friends all put their arms around you and rifled your pockets. This happened to me twice at an attraction in Delhi (can’t remember which one) and both times because I was aware of it my awareness stopped them rifling through my pockets.

I also use the old tricks of hidden pockets inside my pack or my pants to stash valuable documents such as passports, not carrying too much money and also breaking up my sources of money and cards (some in my pack, some in my main wallet, a little inside a cheap throwaway wallet I don’t mind parting with if the situation escalates) etc. I have personally never used a money belt as I find them extremely uncomfortable, especially when it is hot, but I have had a pouch with money in stashed in a hidden compartment on the inside of my daysac. Same principal I suppose. For women I do recommend the bra stash, a tiny little pouch that attaches to the inside of your bra and can be used to store some folded notes in. Also if I am out in a local market or shopping, I will have a small bundle of notes (just enough that I think I will need) in a side pocket and use that to pay for things instead of getting my wallet out and advertising where it is and the fact there is money in it.

I think a combination of all of these helps keep me safe and is probably the reason I have never been a victim of pickpocketing or mugging (not a successful one anyway).

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of shameless self promotion Time, but here’s a link to the travel safety advice section of my website if anyone wants to take a look and get a few pointers. Hopefully someone may find it useful? http://bemusedbackpacker.com/travel-tips/travel-safety/

Michael Huxley 28/05/13    Link Report

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  • As a relatively new solo female backpacker this is something that really worries me, being safe while I am backpacking. I suppose in a lot of ways I am quite passive, but I try to minimise any chance of anything happening. I don’t carry my bag over one shoulder as it is easy for people to pull it off, so I keep the strap over my head (with my arm through it) so its more secure. And yes I always have a little money belt.

    Stephanie L 29/05/13    Link Report

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  • Like Michael. I distribute cash etc in different places. I have left my document wallet containing passport, large amount of cash, tickets etc in the safe at my accommodation. I carry some cash in one pocket, some in another, credit cards/ATM cards in another. I wear three quarter pants and have sewn extra pockets on the side legs around knee height, adding a flap with two buttons over the top to make it less easy for someone to just put their hand in. So far, I’ve not had anything stolen.

    Captain Courageous 30/05/13    Link Report

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  • moneybelt, moneybelt, moneybelt.

    25 years or travel, never have been pickpocketed. Only one attempt- which failed.

    MTL 10/07/13    Link Report

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  • In late July, my 71 year old husband was pickpocketed during a train change between Berne and Geneve: in the crowded entry to the car. A man pushed him hard in the chest with a backpack and meanwhile an accomplish picked his velcro cargo pocket low on his pants leg. It was done so seamlessly that he didn’t realize his wallet was gone until an hour later when he reached into that pocket. We filed a police report at the Geneve train station because he lost not only three credit cards, an ATM card, but his driver’s license and SS # in addition to 200 swiss francs. Fortunately the train pass and passport were in another pocket. Police at the station said there were no cameras on platforms and little chance of recover:( and that older people were often targeted. We’ve made ten trips to Switzerland always traveling by train and this is our first incident: so be wary, travelers.

    baneal62 27/08/14    Link Report

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