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pickpockets and smart phones

Constant reminders to keep passport, cards, and cash in a money belt to deter pickpockets has me wondering about best ways to keep smart phones safe from pickpockets in Italy. My smart phone does not fit in a money belt comfortably and unobtrusively.

Posted by
3789 posts

Money belt is for deep storage and not originally designed for phones. Crossbody bag with top zip (and a flap over the zipper is even better). Phone in an inside zipped pocket...two zips and a flap takes the thief too long.....as long as you don't fall for the bird poop or mustard scam.
Remember thousands travel with no theft. Take precautions but little is perfect.
Words of wisdom, don't take what you can't afford to replace.
Consider a cheap travel phone instead

Posted by
2650 posts

Phones are big pickpocket business where I live. My phone is in a small wallet style carrier with a strap that clips to my purse. The strap is long enough that I can still use the phone.

Posted by
3270 posts

How big is your phone? DH carries his in the breast pocket of his shirt. All his travel shirts have pockets with a zipper under a flap. If you are wearing a jacket, having an inside zipped pocket works too.

Posted by
2715 posts

A money belt would not work for a phone anyway - the point of the device is to use it (not only communication but also map, camera, notes, etc) so burying it where it’s unreachable is defeating the purpose. If you aren’t going to use it then don’t bring it out with you (it can stay in the room if all you want is to be able to call home or check email once and awhile).

Really the only thing to do with it is keep it in your front pocket or hand or a zipped compartment of a crossbody bag. Not perfect but your bigger risk is using it and setting it down somewhere someone could grab it. Like the edge of a table. Don’t do that.

A pickpocket would happily steal a phone but a phone won’t make you a specific target, if that makes sense. Everyone in Italy over 10 years old seemingly has an expensive smartphone in their hand at all times.

Posted by
759 posts

Kept in front pants pocket WITH my hand in the pocket when near anyone.
That phone doubles as a travel camera and at $1300 not cheap but a modern reality. Can’t use it if not accessible but accessibility comes with theft potential. Just a risk in life I try to minimize; never use it and then lay it down while sitting at a table, etc.

Travel safe,

One Fast Bob

Posted by
1422 posts

Activate your phone's passcode. It will suck if it gets stolen but at least it will be useless to the thief.

Posted by
40 posts

Even in big American cities, I wear a money belt and keep my wallet and iPhone in my front pockets. Make sure the pockets are deep.

Or wear cargo pants with 4 to 8 pockets and sometimes more inside zipper pockets.

Rick is right about pickpockets moving fast.
Last week in Paris in an almost empty Metro station turnstile, two guys were standing. The pickpocket pulled my travel notebook.from an unbuttoned back pocket while I was in the turnstile.

I felt it moving and turned around. The pickpocket had my notebook in his hand. He acted like I dropped it and gave it back to me.

My notebook is in my front cargo pants pocket next to my iPhone.

I forgot to button the back pocket once. Not again.

In Venice on a vaporetto - another high risk place that Rick warns about - I noticed a fellow tourist with both back pockets unbuttoned with a wallet in one. I warned him based on my experience. He thanked me and buttoned up.
Yes,it was an awkward conversation with a stranger but I wanted to keep him out of harms way.
Stay watchful. Share what can help others.

Posted by
8985 posts

It's something you have to be very vigilant about especially in London. In the Islington neighborhood the police have posted up all over the place about moped thieves driving on sidewalks and snatching phones out of people's hands.
Something that can help is looping a wrist strap through the bottom notches of your phone's case.
Do a search for "camera wrist strap" on Amazon for lots of choices.
Also helps you from accidentally dropping your phone.

Posted by
759 posts

Andrew, I beg to differ.
Do I need to, well no.
I could carry multiple devices: cell phone, still camera, video camera, and have all that weight and bulk to contend with. And really be a stand out theft target. No thanks.

1 small (fairly) High Quality device does it for me. And each night it backs up that day’s photos and videos to the “cloud”. So if lost or stolen I haven’t lost anything (except a few bucks) as I can have a new phone in 2-48 hrs depending upon where I am. Would I like losing one, of course not, but will it ruin a trip or my budget- no. A slight hiccup but nothing more.

Travel safe,

One Fast Bob

Posted by
245 posts

I don't think anyone needs to travel with a $1300 phone/camera even in 2019

I think it's typical and reasonable to carry a smartphone that probably costs that much. No, no one NEEDS to, but no one NEEDS to travel, either. My smartphone replaces multiple devices and texts which would be bulkier and more bothersome to use, and which I think would put one more at risk of pickpocketing when juggling things and standing there reading a travel guide or paper map. I use my iPhone for maps, location/site information, translations, buying and storing tickets/passes, audioguides to sites, bus schedules, secure copies of my passport and credit card numbers.......and that's just the travel-specific things. Add to that my audiobooks, my compass (not as important now, with maps), and my weather app.

And the price of a good camera to someone who cares about their images? If you care about photography and are even at the "good amateur" level, $1000+ is very common and in some cases rather low for taking travel photos.

Posted by
305 posts

I use one of the wrist straps, the kind that stickers on to the back of the phone, although the case holds it fine without stickering. It works well and a small carabiner clip keeps it attached to you or a purse when you aren't using it.

Posted by
21071 posts

Cameras on the newer phones (Samsungs beginning with the S9, I think) have an optical 2x zoom feature that I covet. That's going to cause me to spend more than expected when I replace my now-4.5-years-old phone. It's not going to be $1300, though.

Posted by
12891 posts

Very true about smart phones being theft and pickpocket items in SF, as well as snatch and grab incidents and stick-ups

Posted by
245 posts

Criminals will target items where there is a particular demand. In recent years break through developments in smart phones have slowed so there is little, from a thieves point of view, to differentiate an old phone worth a couple of quid from the latest state of the art device worth £1000+.

Exactly - your basic smartphones are so common, there's really nothing notable to make them stand out in the hands of a tourist vs the hands of a local. If you see Italians walking around talking or reading on their phones without concerns, there's really little reason you should worry either. Unless you have standout new tech, of course. I heard so many similar warnings before I went to Spain, but I realized that if every other person on the metro had their smartphone in their hands, there's no reason that I couldn't either.......of course it might get stolen, but I was at no more risk than every other local resident simply because I was doing a "stupid tourist thing".