How to Avoid Pickpockets

Having your pocket picked while traveling can be a real problem. Suddenly your money and hotel keycard are gone, and someone has your credit cards and drivers license. They may even have your passport. How can you protect yourself?

I have always kept my wallet in my front pocket, at home and while traveling, and haven’t been successfully pickpocketed since a visit to Mexico when I was about 5 years old.

In risky locations I take it even further, by putting a big fat dummy wallet in my back left pants pocket. The dummy wallet is packed with those cardboard fake credit cards that come in the mail from time to time, and also a semi-realistic $1 million dollar bill that I got somewhere. (Wouldn’t it be fun to see the face of a thief who gets it  🙂

Other methods of keeping your funds and passport safe include a flesh-colored money pouch that you wear under your pants, a money belt, and a pouch that hangs around your neck…from time to time I’ve used all three. You can find a variety of such devices at travel stores, eBay and Amazon.

On a city street in Costa Rica I was bumped from behind twice in quick succession, evidently by someone trying to see which pocket I would instinctively protect.  I did not react “appropriately”, so the thief gave up.

In Cairo my family was closely followed by a young boy who seemed up to no good. We would stop, turn around and stare at him, and in response he would stop and wait until we got moving again. He was persistent, but gave up after a couple of blocks.

In Paris a man who appeared drunk fell to the sidewalk right in front of me. A group of his friends were standing nearby, and if I had stopped to help him up I assume they would have crowded around and relieved me of everything in all my pockets.

Someone, maybe Rick Steves, has warned that almost any sidewalk commotion that you see while traveling is very likely to be the setup for a pickpocketing scheme.

One last tip: My family uses the code word “Bogey” if we suspect someone may be a pickpocket. For example, if one of us sees someone following very close we will say “Bogey at 6 o’clock.”