My mum always use to tell me when I was younger to watch out for pickpockets and scammers whenever we went on vacation. Unfortunately, I have been pick-pocketed before but it’s made me more aware and cautious of my surroundings. Here’s some advice and tips that can be put to good use by experienced and non-experienced travellers.
- Have a secure bag.
A pickpocket is more likely to target people that seem more vulnerable. If you have a secure bag, you have a better chance of being bypassed. If you’re using a backpack, carry it on your front. If you have a handbag, keep your arm on it at all times. Make sure you’re not carrying a bag that’s open. I always make sure the zip is in the front rather than the back so no one can open my bag from behind.
- Be aware of who’s around you.
I’m always weary when I step into a crowded area such as a train compartment or a marketplace. I was pick-pocketed in a night market and didn’t take any notice of being slightly pushed by the people behind me (which allowed them to take my iPod out of my backpack). If you’re in a crowded place, be aware of not only your bag but also what’s in your pockets. It’s also good to be aware that people might be working together but seem like they don’t know each other.
- Watch out for scams.
This is also common in tourist hotspots. During my trip in Berlin, there were teenage girls asking tourists to sign a petition and donate some money for a ‘good cause’. However, this is a common tactic; while you’re busy with the talker, it’s possible there are others pick-pocketing you. Often these teenagers will have minders around who are watching out for the police. Before you enter a busy spot, look at the scene from a distance to see if you can catch people working together.
- Don’t act like a tourist.
The more confused and lost you act, the better target you make for pickpockets and scammers. Although there are lovely and helpful people, do be aware that some might not have good intentions. Of course it’s inevitable to look like a tourist when you have a map in your hand but try to look confident. If you really need help, find a tourist office or go inside a shop to ask for help.
Keep your valuables separated.
Lastly, never keep all your valuables on your person, and in the same place. If you are carrying money, keep them in separate places so if you are pick-pocketed in one area, you’ll have backup money. Most hotels provide safes so I always leave the majority of my values back in the hotel.