My girlfriends and I were on a trip to Mexico. We’d had a lot of margaritas the night before and so we decided to have a slow day shopping in the marketplace, nursing our hangovers, and avoiding the sun. A group of locals was giving us directions to a cafe, when a young man sidled up next to us. He appeared to be with the others. While we were chatting about options for coffee, he stood very close to my friend and scratched his arm. As he did, I noticed his hand dipped quickly into her purse. I snatched his shirt to stop him from running away, so he dropped her wallet and took off. We let him go, but we certainly learned our lesson!
In this traveler’s situation, the potential thief:
- took advantage of the travelers not feeling their best
- seamlessly blended in with the group
- got close enough to steal
In short, they made themselves relatively easy targets.
Understand how pickpockets work
It’s important for travelers to understand that pickpockets can be cute or grubby children, pretty women, helpful bystanders, even the homeless guy to whom you give your change.
It’s also important for travelers to recognize how thieves work:
- They may work alone or in groups
- They may distract or physically shove you
- They may use your kindness against you
- They may stand too close or invade your physical space
All of these are techniques used to confuse the traveler and allow the thief some time to snatch your travel funds and get safely away.
Avoid looking like an easy target
Pickpockets love travelers who:
- Are lost and don’t know their way
- Wear backpacks with openings at the top on their backs
- Hang their purses on the back of their chairs at cafes
- Store their wallets in the outside pocket of their jeans or jackets
- Carry too many bags home from the marketplace
- Drink too much and walk back to their lodging
- Carry all their cash in one wallet
3 Techniques for keeping your money safe
- Divide up your cash and cards – put some of your cash in another place: your sock, an interior pocket, etc. That way, if your wallet is stolen, you’ll have other funds to rely on. If you take a backup credit card, that can help as well.
- Secure your wallet – while wallets are not considered as safe as other options, like a money belt, there are ways to keep your wallet safer. One option is to wrap the wallet with a rubber band because it makes it harder for it to be pulled from your pocket unnoticed. Some travelers find wallets with attaching chains or cords work well as well.
- Wear your purse correctly – if you’re wearing a purse or handbag with a flap, keep the flap against your body. Put your wallet into the interior (not an outside pocket) and the zipper closed.