Helpful Advice from the “Pickpocket King”

Photo © Laura Martone.Since April, I’ve offered a variety of safety tips for travelers in the United States – including how to handle encounters with wild animals; how to stay safe while boating, paddling, or diving; how to avoid heat exhaustion; and how to hike responsibly with your pets. I’ve even featured a few tips for women traveling alone. But, until I opened my email earlier today and discovered a press release about a man named Bob Arno, I hadn’t given much thought to one potential peril for travelers: pickpocketing.

With the peak travel season now upon us, it’s the perfect time to consider some advice from Arno, the “world’s greatest pickpocket” and the self-proclaimed “Pickpocket King.” Arno – a “con-man” comedian, street-crime authority, and identity theft consultant – strives to help travelers avoid being the victim of pickpocket scams, whether here in the United States or in a foreign city, such as Barcelona or Naples. “For the traveler, it can happen anywhere: a crowded sidewalk, a busy shopping mall, an airport terminal, public transportation,” Arno warns. “Clever crooks use the latest techniques to snatch your wallet, pocketbook, and even your mobile phone to get valuable information to steal your identity and drain your bank account.”

Given such desperate times, skillful pickpockets can come in all shapes and sizes, from small, nimble children to beautiful, distracting women. So, whether you’re embarking on a business trip, a family vacation, a romantic getaway, a solo escape, or an excursion with friends, consider these vital tips from a pickpocketing expert:

Get informed

If you don’t know the area you’re going to, ask someone, like a hotel clerk, about coming home late at night alone or with your wife. Call a cab if you don’t know how to get back to your hotel.

Leave the Rolex at home or in the hotel safe

If you’re going to the market place… leave the Rolex at home. In fact, it’s always a good idea to leave it at home. Thieves notice them. To believe you can wear one because there are so many fakes around is to give yourself a false sense of security. The thief doesn’t know it’s a fake when he’s going for it, and these aren’t brain surgeons; they won’t know until they try to fence it. Today’s fakes are so good you have to be a jeweler to tell the difference.

Don’t put cash in your front pocket

It’s so terribly easy to take cash from a front pocket you wouldn’t believe it, especially in public transportation. While usually the territory of the adept, the fabled two-fingered grab is widespread and very effective.

Never put your purse down

Leaving your purse anywhere, on the back of your chair in a restaurant, on the floor of a disco, or beneath the seat at the theater or opera, is a really good way of paying your “stupidity tax.” Ninety percent of all street-type thefts are from women, and most of those from their purses.

Forget fancy and organized

Pickpockets love money clips. They keep the cash so organized. Slim tall wallets are also favorites, especially the ones that stick up about a centimeter out of the back pocket and have nice sharp corners to grab. A short, fat wallet stuffed into a back pocket may be more visible, but it’s almost impossible to steal without the person becoming aware of it.

Cover yourself

Keep your hand over your cash or wallet when you’re in a crowd. If you have a button on your pocket, button it; if your
pockets have flaps, close them. Anything to slow down the pickpocket. If your purse has a flap or a closing strap, close it. Never put cash, identity documents, credit cards, or other valuables in a backpack; they’re too easy to steal from.

Walk with determination

A person who looks like they know where they’re going, walks quickly, and is attentive to their surroundings will be avoided by pickpockets like the plague.

Carry some money you can afford to lose

If you’re in unfamiliar surroundings, it’s always a good idea to have a small wallet with, say, $13 in it. If you’re mugged, throw it on the sidewalk away from you and run. The thieves will go for the money and, chances are, they won’t run after you.

Make noise

These guys don’t want to attract attention. If you think someone’s lifted your wallet, confront them loudly. If you’re in a train, chances are the guy will drop your wallet on the floor.

Hopefully, you’ll find such tips helpful on your next vacation. In the meantime, do you have any additional advice for evading pickpockets?

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