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Be careful to well-organized pick-pocketing group in the metro


I am in Athens now and this is what we experienced yesterday.

We were on the metro (Line 3). The car was quite full.
When the metro arrived at the station, one guy said, "this door does not open!" The door was stuck, and in retrospect, he must have done something to the door.

Frustrated passengers tried to go to another door and created a mini-panicky situation.
I felt something and saw a guy's hand trying to open my bag (which was placed in front of my chest), so I hit that hand.

My friend was not so lucky - some cash was taken from hers. But her bag was not open as we got off the metro, which means in that short moment of panic situation, the thief reached her bag, open, grab the cash, and close it.

We are usually very careful, but in that moment, all of us (with local people) rushed to go to another door as the metro was about to leave, so our attention to our belongings was not enough.

Lesson learned: never move your hand from your bag, and if something unusual (like this door thing) happens, be even more careful.

Posted by
276 posts

Thanks for the info. I just booked a Greece tour for 2018. Sorry your companion lost money.

The thieves and beggars do take away some of the joy of traveling. Money belts are important these days. I wish European countries could rid themselves of transit thieves but its a tall proposition. And with their high influx of refugees I fear Europe has more troubles in store.

Posted by
489 posts

okay, I am just sick of all these pick pocket posts.... please people, have you ever been on a metro line in the USA?

First, enter the car and look around at all the people make some eye contact' but do not smile!
Second, move away from most people. DO NOT SPEAK !
third, watch people from the side of your eyes
Fourth, do not engage with anyone!!!!!!
Fifth, if very crowded, keep your hands and eyes on everything. Seem like you know what stop you wish to exit.
Sixth, if something weird happens go to another car or exit.

Posted by
2693 posts

I've lived in major cities in the US and spent a lot of time on subways in NYC, Philly and other places. There is no comparison. The metro in Athens is a kill zone for pickpockets and it's well known. It's the only place I've had a near miss. Don't even think any metro in the US comes close. The key to preventing a pickpocket from succeeding is none of the formentioned. It is this: have your valuables in a money belt and nothing in a pocket, purse, backpack, fanny belt that you are not prepared to lose.

Posted by
1991 posts

Thanks for posting and the heads up to help others avoid or become more aware of tactics used. Also, if people are sick of a topic, just move on and not respond to posts you are sick of.

Posted by
333 posts

tgreen- no, many people have NOT been on a metro line in the USA. Public transportation is practically non-existent in much of the mid-west and probably other places as well. I live in a town of 250 people. I have to drive everywhere. I have to drive to another town to get gas in my car or groceries. I have to drive over an hour each way to get to college or to a mall. My first time on public transportation was on my first trip to Europe. My first subway pickpocketing (my first experience with any sort of up close crime) was in Paris and I experienced nearly an identical situation to what the OP described in Athens. On many of the public transportation lines in Europe, we were packed in like sardines. There was no space to get away from people. In Rome I witnessed a woman getting her wallet stolen from her zipped purse as she was holding the purse! For people not experienced in big city life, these things can be very scary. It's natural to want to warn others.

Posted by
11613 posts

Refugees/migrants are not pickpockets.

It takes a long time to become good enough at this type of theft to do it on public transportation. If your money or other valuables are accessible, a pickpocket will peel you like a grape to get them and you won't know it until it's too late, unless you are extremely vigilant.

Posted by
489 posts

sorry, I was a little moody, when I wrote the last post.
I've been on Athens metro, London Metro, Paris Metro, Amsterdam Metro, Seoul Metro, Tokyo metro, Chicago L, NYC metro, Philly metro, plus many others... You really don't know crowded until you've been on metros in Asia...
Be very wary on any metro line that runs to major tourist areas.

have only what you are able to loose by pick pocket in your wallet or purse.
If you are ultra nervous, then by all means wear your very valuables near your body.
However, they are picking you because you look like you either have money or are not aware of your surroundings....
Watch the youtube video on Pickpocket king Bob Arno when he tries to find the best pickpocketer in Naples....
Something strange happened on our last trip last month. When in Paris we were heading to MontMartere on the metro and possibly 15 people in special vests all entered each car and watched the car standing by the doors. Then after a few stops they all got off and transferred to the same line we were going and then all got back on the metro, again one in each car. While waiting I asked one nice young man what they were doing and he told me that they were there to look for packages, lost children, etc. Like customer service, but I could see it was the heightened alert for France. (they were not armed)

Posted by
343 posts

Posted by tgreen
08/02/17 10:00 PM
255 posts
okay, I am just sick of all these pick pocket posts.... please people, have you ever been on a metro line in the USA?

Uh, have you traveled in the US??

There is NO comparison. These things dont happen here like we see in europe. Occasionally? Sure. You could say that about most anywhere in the world

Others may cite crime/violence stats of the US and how "high" the rates are, but they almost never give you the rest of the story. If you remove the inner city crapholes (such as chicago), where tourists and the average person does not travel, our violence and crime statistics would be among the lowest in the world

Posted by
367 posts

I live in the SF Bay Area and take the metro that we call BART. Pickpockets are not the issue here. What has started to happen is groups of up to 20 teenagers or young adults, get on a train and assult passengers and steal iPhones, tablets or computers.

I actually saw a woman have her phone taken right out of her hand. She was so busy staring at her phone she was paying no attention to what was going on around her. Sounds very familiar. So to asume we are up to date on pickpockets. Violence, unfortunately, pickpockets nope.

Posted by
3110 posts

Thanks for the heads up. I never tire of reading pickpocket posts. I'm sick of "Should I buy a Rail Pass" topics. I have decided to stop reading them.

Posted by
1114 posts

I have used the Metro many times and (fortunately) never had any issues with pick-pocketers, scammers, bag snatchers. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Whether that's because of experience, timing or being lucky is unknown, but I feel experience plays a big part of preventing problems.

Metros are notoriously crowded and prime areas for pick pocketers. Always keep valuables in a secure area, either on your person or a money belt.

Be leery of anyone who comes up to you out of nowhere and asks questions . . . more than likely it's a team working to see what they can get away with.

I know everyone wants to be polite and courteous to others but if something doesn't feel right . . . then it probably isn't. If you feel threatened say I'm going to get the Tourist Police and probably the culprits will leave.

I have been very fortunate not to have any run-ins with scammers . . . it does happen but to those who don't do their research, take precautions and are afraid to offend anyone.

Most Greeks are polite, courteous and not out to get you . . . but no country/people are perfect and sometimes it's non-Greeks who are the real problem giving locals a bad name.

Check out these websites to avoid being taken:

In the end it's up to you to use common sense, just like anywhere, whether at home or abroad.

Posted by
3260 posts

Just to clarify the pickpocket situation in Greece:
• Totally nonexistent on islands & outside 2-3 Greek cities; in fact, Greece has one of lowest crime rates in Europe; as Greek friend of mine explained, "petty crime not part of usual Greek culture"
• Pickpocketing in Athens limited mainly to 3 arenas, all involving Crowding & tourists who are distracted or Public Transit Virgins - the blue Line metro to/from Airport, Green-line Metro to/from seaport, and crowd around Syntagma for Changing of Guard ceremony.
• Another Greek police report notes that 75% of pickpocket complaints are men, who insist on carrying their wallets in pockets, many of whom claim "I know I could tell if someone touched MY pocket" (NO you couldn't that's why they are called pickpockets).
• A couple years ago a police "dragnet" rounded up ring of 70 Metro pickpockets; 69 were illegal Albanian Immigrants.
• Greece has coped amazingly w. immigrant challenge with unlimited unmarked mountain borders; USA should do as well.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for your responses, which are very helpful.

One thing to make clear - I am not blaming Greece for this incident. Pick-pocketing can happen anywhere. And we had been very careful about our belongings.

The reason why I wrote this is because I though the tactic was rather unique - create a panicky situation first (did something to stuck the door) and then carry out the pick-pocketing.

Even though the metro was very crowded, if nothing like that (the unopened door) happened, we put our hands tightly on our bags as usual to protect them and that should have been just fine. The panicky situation distracted our attention.

So my post was to tell you this kind of tactic they used. I am not sure if this is new, but it was new to us.

I lived in NYC, a big city, and used the metro all the time. Though I have never experienced pick-pocketing, metros that I rode in NYC were not so crowded as those in Athens. But about 15 years ago, there was a tactic to get money from the tourists on the street, called "brown bag guy." Men who carried a brown bag intentionally ran into tourists and dropped the bag, and demanded the money because the contents of the bag was now broken. Whenever my friends came to NYC, I told them watch out for the suspicious guys who held a brown bag. I think knowledge is always an important aspect of protection.

Posted by
3260 posts

Saw a "situation creation" on Amtrak once from DC to NYC. Just as train was pulling into Philadelphai, & crowds filled the aisles with baggages, guy cried out "Watch out, I just dropped a contact lens" and fell to his knees searching the aisle. Of course people either tried to help, or craned necks, when suddenly he got up & bolted out the door, just as another man said, "Oh mi god, my wallet's gone!" The guy's accomplice of course had used the commotion to pick a pocket.

Posted by
343 posts

"Crime ridden areas" ??
" still subject to distortions, such as a one-time incident in a county with a small population."

Your article is talking about rates. Crime rates that are distorted due to less populated areas.

It's obvious who needs to do some research here. Holy cow.

Nice attempt at spin. I don't read Breitbart but it's obvious the slant where you get your information and think only with your politics

My Point still stands. most of the violent crime in this country is committed in inner-city crap holes like Chicago and Baltimore. Fortunately they generally are not in areas where tourists spend their time again, just as I previously said

Posted by
3961 posts

Another "tactic" we observed was in Madrid last year. We were on our way to dinner and noticed a "mother and son" walking in front of us. The "son" had a jacket neatly draped over his arm. (We were warned about this tactic from our RS Guide in Portugal). They can hide things under the jacket. I alerted my husband (we both wear money belts) and we took a detour to avoid them.

Long story short, 2 hours later walking back from the restaurant the two were being arrested!

Be aware of your surroundings and don't let your guard down.