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pickpocket question

My husband and I were discussing options, especially for men, on what/how we can use to avoid being pick pocketed/scammed. We are spending the majority of our 3 week trip in Ehrwald, Austria, where we rented an apartment and plan to do alot of hiking, so we aren't too worried about that. We are thinking more along the lines of our visit to Munich and Venice, Italy.

I plan on using a cross body bag that I can carry in front with my arm draped a crossed it. I have mentioned a money belt to my husband, which will work ok for money and id, but what about his phone? (It's not an option leaving the phone behind because my father is not in good health.) We don't plan on traveling individually at any point but we like to have our individual id's and phones on our persons in case we get separated.
I know the best solution is to be aware and vigilant but I can just see myself, being my first trip overseas, going ga ga and oohing and ah hing over everything.

Can anyone offer advice on what you did and what worked for you? Thanks a bunch!!!

Posted by
930 posts

My husband always carries his own small cross body bag. It is very plain and very small, with just enough room for his phone, sunglasses, packet of tissues, smokes, and such.

Posted by
2525 posts

To secure my smartphone, I place it in my day pack in a secure area. No problem.

Posted by
84 posts

Hubby has nylon trifold wallet with just ID, day money and one card in pants front pocket. Small iPhone in other front pocket. In crowds he jams both hands into those pockets on top of contents. He's a fair sized guy, so even with his elbows tucked in people tend to give him a little room. I carry a small crossbody with similar content ( a different card) and in crowds I position myself where the bag is closer to between us and usually with our elbows linked if it's evening.

Europeans are lovely and no more a threat than our own larger cities. Remain aware, not paranoid. For your own self, establish a physical routine whereby you consciously receive your change or return of your credit card. It's not a matter of theft so much as yes, we tourists are easily distracted! Enjoy!

Posted by
6554 posts

I was once pickpocketed in Paris by a team of professionals. We were in the middle of a group of people coming down an escalator. One of The pickpockets was in front of us, and he tripped at the bottom. People started falling over each other into a pile of bodies. The pickpockets went to work on the pile.
What is so bad is that the authorities see these people on CATV all day long and they do nothing about them. It is an accepted profession in many cities in Europe. And they may speak to you in perfect English.
Other places have little gypsy children as part of the team.
I carry nothing in my pockets. My wife carries no purse. In crowded places, she walks closely behind me and we are very vigilante. When others get into "our space," I am not the courteous, friendly American. I take an aggressive attitude. And never let anyone do anything for you or accept unsolicited directions from anyone.

Posted by
7821 posts

I wear a messenger bag cross body all the time. My iphone is under the flap that fastens at the bottom of the bag, but you could also have it inside the bag. It is good to have a bag with a zipper and then a flap that goes across the top, that fastens at the bottom. Then you don't have to worry about anything. You don't have to wear it in front of you or worry about draping an arm across it.

Posted by
79 posts

My husband bought the anti pick pocket pants, he like it but they ran a little big. I bought on Amazon a pocket with the zipper that you pin to the inside of your pants, shorts or skirt. Loved having a hidden pocket without the extra band around my waist, plus a carried a small purse with the safety locks. The pocket was originally designed for men.

Posted by
2773 posts

I wear a messenger cross body bag with a flap that fastens shut, and also has multiple zippered compartments inside. DH carries a cross body messenger bag as well. But he keeps his phone in a shirt pocket. They make lovely lightweight, fast drying, travel shirts that have zippered pockets (flaps cover the zippers).

We both wear neck pouches for passports, cards, cash, etc. that we don't need to access.

Posted by
12139 posts

Any method that makes you feel more secure is great. But having awareness and can help a lot too. Not paranoia, just awareness. In crowds i generally hold things a little firmer, around groups of Roma i tend to keep some extra distance. But always polite and always engaging.

Posted by
5538 posts

Here's the problem with a phone -- I want to be able to use the camera, so having it zipped away under multiple flaps kind of negates the reason I bring it. Have traveled with the phone in an open, accessible outside pocket of my purse with no problems to date. Not recommending this, just saying it can be done.
Cash, cards and passport are in a money belt.

Posted by
2508 posts

Although we have never been pickpocketed, we have heard stories from this forum and elsewhere. We have been pleased with the security of the RS Civita Moneybelts, Civita Neck Wallet, and Civita Hidden Pocket (my husband's favorite). Use hidden neck wallet for phone?

Don't be fooled by the false security of "outside zippers" or pockets! Not a deterrent for thieves.

As the OP mentioned, stay vigilant and don't let your guard down.

Posted by
117 posts

Does your husband wear a jacket or vest. Been finding that many of the jackets/travel vests are coming with an inside breast zipper pocket that was probably for your iPod. My phone fits perfectly in there, I can easily get to it and hear it if it rings, but the zipper is hidden in the inside of the jacket/vest.

Humorously. My friend stopped a teenage girl pick pocket on the Metro in Rome. She was reaching under her purse for our friends unsnapped cargo pocket. She would have been disappointed. It had a Travel Guide to Rome.

Posted by
1263 posts

Money belt and stay alert in high-risk areas like a subway. If any kind of commotion starts, go the other direction. No need to spend money on special garments. No such thing as thief-proof.

Posted by
43 posts

My experience in Paris (2015): My college-age daughter and I had our (rolling carry-on size) suitcases and stood at the top of a long, long staircase in the Metro. It was morning rush-hour. We were taking a big breath before tackling those concrete stairs. A young Parisian man in a suit made eye contact with me, then took both suitcases down those steep stairs for us. Met us at the bottom and with a brief smile was off. I was grateful for his kindness! Could he have walked away with our suitcases? Of course. But my instincts were right, and he left me with a warm feeling toward Parisians (who have a reputation for coldness to tourists). I just wanted to add my experience to this thread.

Posted by
627 posts

For day money, I have a small Pacsafe wallet that goes in a front pocket, and attaches to my belt with a chain. The chain stopped a pickpocket last summer. I also have a small s-biner on the wallet's zipper (attaching to a safety pin) so it would be very difficult for a thief to open the wallet quickly even if I did not feel the tug.

For smart phones, I have no ideas other than clutching the thing as though my life depended on it. So far I have not found a carrier that I would entrust it to that also provides easy access to the phone. On the bright side, I came back from Europe last summer with a much stronger grip :-)

Posted by
125 posts

You all have been great, hearing what everyone else does. I have the neck wallet that I plan on carrying, under my tops, of course. Mr. Has decided on the moneybelt so it's really just his phone and pocket money he's worried about.
I am generally a very observant person (I trained myself to be when I was living alone) but like I said previously, it's my first time to Europe so I'm not kidding myself that I'll be as vigilant as when I am at home. Lol

Posted by
52 posts

I personally do not like a money belt. I think it's too much of a hassle to get money out/put money in when I'm wearing it. I much prefer the neck wallet. I'll tell you what doesn't work....cargo shorts. I had velcro strips sewn in to increase my security but boy was I wrong. I got pickpocketed by two women on a bus in Rome. I thought I would hear the velcro strips open if someone attempted to get into my pocket but I didn't hear anything. I realized my error when I got off the bus and found myself without a wallet. A policeman in Rome told me that cargo shorts are the #1 pickpocket attraction for men.

Posted by
12139 posts

But do keep one thing in mind so that you get the most enjoyment out of the trip: The odds of being hit are pretty small and infinitesimal outside certain zone and certain crowded areas. If you read all the reports they all pretty much have the same places in common and your destinations are not on that list. So common sense, a little awareness and splitting the documents so there always backups and, I think, you have done all you need to do to be reasonable.

Posted by
2397 posts

Royal Robbins makes travel slacks and shorts that have a zippered pocket inside the front pocket. They have many varieties of slacks and the ones I have don’t have a style name on the label, so you’d need to call their very good customer service. But that is where my cell phone and few Euros go, the rest in my money belt. The zipper is not visible and my hand is usually in the front pocket. Pickpocket proof? Probably nothing really is. But I’ve been to Europe many times in areas that are crawling with pickpockets and the only time I got “hit” was in Athens on the subway when I was wearing other slacks with a cargo style pocket on the thigh. As another poster noted, that is a pickpocket magnet. So, I stick with the Royal Robbins. Not cheap but they wear like iron, wash out in the sink, dry overnight, no wrinkles.

Posted by
125 posts

Alan, that is awesome! They aren't too pricey (on Amazon anyhow). I think I'll order husband a pair!!

Posted by
2397 posts

Make sure they are the ones with the inside zippered pocket. Not all their models do, and they don’t always make it easy to tell. If not Travel Smith also makes traveling slacks with this feature. Not tres fashionable but they work.

Posted by
12099 posts

Just a thought? Walking around with a death grip or chest clutch on a non-secured, cross-body bag is a dead giveaway that there's something in it worth taking. One intentional distraction - which removes your arm from in front of the bag - and talented fingers could be into it.

You've gotten lots of good suggestions and none of them are wrong; it's all about what comfortably works for you. Neither of us can tolerate moneybelts My husband uses a small, cross-body Pacsafe bag for some of our stuff - like passports, his cards/daily cash and ipad - and I pin a small, zippered pouch under my waistband for my card and daily cash. Totally invisible. Unless changing cities/countries, we leave the bulk of our cash and some of the other goodies in the room safe at the hotel, otherwise it goes in the Pacsafe. I don't put anything of value into my shoulder bag, other than my camera, and we only pull out the ipad in inconspicuous areas. Walking with confidence, without looking like you think you're going to be jumped any minute, helps as well. So far, so good!

Posted by
263 posts

If only one of you carries a phone, then let it be the person who has a bag. I carry a Pacsafe brand crossbody purse. It's large enough to put a pack-n-stow jacket in it, plus a wallet and guidebook. I like the security of having the clips locked and I NEVER worry about anyone gaining access. I use it whenever I travel, domestic or international, because it's a great travel size and because it's sturdy and waterproof. My husband carries his phone in his front pocket of his jeans or the front pocket of his cargo pants. Generally, phones are not what thieves are after because most are password protected (locked). He had a cheap, fake wallet (to deter thieves) in his pocket when we went to Greece a few years ago and he didn't even know it was gone until the end of the day.
Know that you will make mistakes on your trip and things will go wrong at some point, but put those events aside when they happen and enjoy the trip! Austria is soooo beautiful!!

Posted by
6195 posts

Put the phone in a zippered compartment in your cross body bag. That is what I've done for years, traveling the world.
Be careful when walking away from an ATM machine. That is where we got pocket picked in Venice. One bumped into us hard on very crowded Accademia bridge while other one took the wallet even though deep in front pocket. Never have used any money belts. I wouldn't worry in Austria unless on crowded buses, subways.

Posted by
237 posts

For your DH, if he intends to use the phone for a camera, thus have it in his hand often, he might want to put a wrist strap on the case...which I am assuming he has.

Unsolicited advise re pickpockets....I too carry a lightweight crossbody bag and generally rest my hand on the zippered opening. I also have nearly everything in the bag in another smaller zipped bag...cosmetics, phone battery backup, wallet, first aid kit. These are all safety-pinned in my purse. This keeps things organized and spread out rather than all pooled a the bottom of my purse. So, if someone DOES get their hand into my purse, they will not be able to easily pull the valuables out.

And of course a money belt.

Posted by
2508 posts

Another thought: RS sells a Flexi-Lock that can be used to secure several zippers at once. I've seen people use this on their Civita Day pack, backpack, and purse with multiple zippers. The Flex-Lock is not suitable for US airport checked luggage.

Posted by
2397 posts

*He had a cheap, fake wallet (to deter thieves) in his pocket when we went to Greece a few years ago and he didn't even know it was gone until the end of the day. *

How does a “fake” wallet deter thieves? Based on the result it seems like it draws them into your space, the last thing you want. I deal with this when my wonderful wife leaves a visible bag in the passenger compartment. She then tells me “oh, it’s just maps and guidebooks”.

Posted by
630 posts

We use these Smartphone Wrist Strap & Neck Strap with Grip Patch when we travel. It's nice to have the wrist strap when taking pictures so my phone doesn't fall if I get bumped. Plus I can let it hang from my wrist for a second or two if I need to be hands free. It also allows us to clip our phones inside our daypacks if we aren't using it (I sewed a keyring to top of our daypacks). My husband only uses his when he travels, but I use mine every day even when I am not traveling.

You can even attach it to a neck lanyard if you are listening to an audio guide. I love it!

Posted by
630 posts

You could also get a simple passport pouch to hold your cell phone when not in use. I have used one for this purpose and it worked out nicely. I like the open top (no zippers, etc) so I can slip it in and out quickly and it hides under my clothes when not in use. I was showing this particular one as an example, but I'm sure you can find a less expensive version that does the same thing.

Posted by
3421 posts

With regard to "...in case we get separated." Having individual phones in case of separation is a good idea and should work well. We have a system that works for us without having to use the phones and it may or not work for your. One of us (predetermined) stays put and lets the other one "find" them. If, after a ten minutes, we are still separated we both return to the last place we absolutely know we were together. If all else fails we just meet back at the hotel. In subway systems if one manages to get on but the other is left at the station, the one on the train gets off at the first stop and waits for the other. Just food for thought as it has worked well for us.

Posted by
440 posts

I wear a messenger back North face one black it has a folding flap with a clip which covers a zipped area which again is split in two, I wear this both day and night as in the summer when wearing tshirt and shorts you dont want to look all bulky with phone sticking out your pocket, plus it is easier when going through security at museums just take the bag off and put in the tray. The link for the bag is below. I am sure these can be purchased in The US

https://m.blacks.co.uk/product/black-the-north-face-bardu-bag/110320/?option=776201&istCompanyId=d92b362f-ac8a-4a8a-87ca-c56eafad7955&istItemId=raxmtwlwp&istBid=tzip&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwt2asruv2QIVIQvTCh0ReABtEAQYASABEgKNKfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Posted by
125 posts

Thanks jayhamps....I like that bag, exactly what I had in mind! I want something I can carry umbrella, wipes, water bottle, etc but not a big, bulky bag.

Posted by
630 posts

Libby, if you like the above messenger bag, Tom Bihn offers a messenger bag that you might like as well. This is my daybag when I travel (I use the medium size). It holds my sunglasses, small umbrella, blistex, aspirin, band-aid, hand sanitizer, kleenex, snacks, battery backup, iPhone, maps, etc. My day money and credit card are attached to an 0-ring inside a zipper. I still use a neck wallet for my stored money and backup credit cards that I don't plan on accessing during the day.

Just giving you another option.

Posted by
12099 posts

(If you or any reviewer prefers any response to be discussed off this
board you can do it through my LinkedIn profile at ___ or the contact
information therein.)

Libby, I highly advise that you do not do this.

Posted by
1684 posts

On my very first trip to Europe, a long time ago, I got pickpocketed outside Westminster Abbey, in a crowd, waiting for Prince Charles to come out. The man next to me asked me if I knew this person, he had a hold of him, and when I said no, the man said well he just took something out of your purse ( yes, a purse, naive traveller)! We called the bobby over and the thief and I headed to the police station. I made my statement and the police said how rare it was to catch the pick pocketer. Needless to say, I missed seeing Prince Charles, but the whole thing honestly was kinda fun! The police were so nice, they even sent me a photo of Prince Charles after I returned home.

Posted by
125 posts

Thanks Kathy....that post seemed rather strange to me for 2 reasons...
The first being it just HAD to be pointed out that the significant other was female. First, what that has to do with the post is beyond me and also, why would I care unless they were trying to make some kind of point.
Also, I am on this forum for a reason, I'm not responding on another forum to discuss the same thing. Just doesn't feel right.

Posted by
8009 posts

Libby, I'm sure that poster has been reported numerous times to the Webmaster for him to evaluate the spam potential of all his posts today. The webmaster doesn't work weekends so sometimes others jump on with ads and other nonsense hoping they will collect some customers before their posts are taken down.

Also glad you have picked up the rhythm of this forum and knew that seemed like a bogus post!

Posted by
12099 posts

Libby, you're a smart cookie. Good for you for picking up on something that didn't feel right. :O)
Yep, that poster has been reported.

Posted by
1029 posts

I personally do not like a money belt. I think it's too much of a hassle to get money out/put money in when I'm wearing it.

I think there is a misunderstanding here. Money in your money belt should never be taken out/put in while you are out and about. It is for "deep storage", i.e. your passport, your reserve fund, etc.

Money for daily use should be in your pocket and you should never carry more than you can lose without ruining your vacation.

Posted by
8 posts

I use a Travelon cross body purse. The strap has metal in it so it can’t be cut through, and the shippers have clasps that clip onto rings so it can’t get opened easily. https://www.travelonbags.com/anti-theft/anti-theft-messenger-bag

Just be aware. We have had many moments that were scary walking Rome at night, and the gypsy/ring scams in Paris. Keep your head up, walk with purpose, you will be fine.
Oh and in my purse I carry all money, hubby’s ID and phone etc so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

Posted by
1625 posts

I traveled solo. I had a very different experience.

I got turned around one night and ended up in a residential neighborhood. I stumbled upon the military police who set me in the right direction. Everything around was quiet, and they did not warn me of anything.

I also walked from Pantheon and Piazza Navona on a couple of nights with no issues.

On some occasions, I took Bus #64. I did not encounter any issues, fear or harassment from anyone. If I needed help for something, people were very nice. Walking from Termini, I was never accosted. The time or two I was stopped, it was from travelers; I was asked for directions.

There was a police and military presence, but I viewed that as a precaution; even a deterrent. I did not see any ruckus anywhere. Guess I lucked out.

Posted by
2773 posts

Mm14, I'm glad that you had such a worry free visit. But I think it is incorrect to assume that everyone either has had the same experiences that you had, or that everyone has the same perception of personal safety that you do. You weren't there, so how can you know whether or not the PP was in a scary situation? I also didn't see where they said that this happened recently.Surely you aren't saying that just because you encountered an active police presence that street crime doesn't exist?

Posted by
1625 posts

CJ, Yes, a few times I have written that my experiences in Italy have all been good. You misunderstand. I don't assume anything.

I wrote of my experiences like everyone else does. With that, I also think it is wrong to instill a "fear of God."

Of course, we all have different experiences and different perceptions. And, no, I was not there when the other person experienced what they did.

If you read what I wrote, I viewed the police presence as a precaution; even a deterrent. As I wrote, "guess I lucked out."

I will repeat - I never encountered danger or issues or threats. And, I am from Boston...so yeah, I know what a big city is like.

Posted by
166 posts

Over the last 4 years I have traveled while wearing Clothing Arts pickpocket proof pants & shorts and I usually carry my wallet, iPhone and passport with me. I have made 8 trips to Europe during this time and never had to worry about my valuables. The clothes are made of nylon but feel like cotton, wash easy in a sink and dry fast. I’m going on the Rick Steves Sicily tour in May and all I’m taking are two pairs of convertible pants & five shirts ( i’ll be wearing one set of shirt & pants so I’ll only pack the rest).
I do wish Rick would carry their clothes in his travel store, I think others would enjoy them too.
Disclaimer:
I don’t work or have any ownership in Clothing Arts, I just like travel items that work and make travel easier like my Smartwool socks or my Tilley’s hat,etc.

Posted by
18 posts

We spent 6 days in Munich 4 years ago. I never had a concern about pick pockets while there. I used a Rick Steves day pack for my purse. We were in Venice in 2016 and by that time I purchased a "safety" purse with locks on each compartment and an RFID blocking pocket. I used it but never felt in a position to worry about pick pockets while there. We just returned from a trip to Paris and I had a pick pocket attempt to get into my purse. I had stupidly left the main compartment of my purse unlocked because of needing my metro ticket in and out. The train was jam-packed. It was awful. After a few moments, I felt a tug on my purse a couple of times. I moved my hand and discovered the top compartment partly unzipped (I had completely zipped it closed before getting on the train). I re-zipped it and locked it. The thief standing beside me remained very nonchalant. From then on, I kept all compartments locked while we were in the metro and on trains. Anytime you are in a crowd, you need to be fully aware and take extra precautions. My husband has a messenger bag with an RFID blocking pocket that also locks. He has used a money belt, too. The main concern is when you are in a crowd. In Paris it is on the Metro that gets very crowded. I had read enough on this site to have alarm bells go off in my head and remember to hold onto my purse and any other possession.

Posted by
18 posts

My husband and I both bought TravelSmith vests with multiple pockets several years ago. We use them, especially on travel days. They have a zippered pocket on the chest and holds out passport and tickets. It keeps them handy and safe while we are traveling. They are really handy on travel days. We can keep our phones in a separate pocket and even our tablets and power cords in another pocket. They are not RFID blocking, but because they zip or Velcro closed, it adds a layer of protection.

Posted by
14 posts

Just to comment, I've seen a number of travelers over the years wearing their passport pouch (the around the neck variety) as a cross body bag. This isn't very smart at all, due to the thin cord can either break or be easily cut.

Posted by
2773 posts

wearing their passport pouch (the around the neck variety) as a cross
body bag.
Do you mean they were wearing their neck pouches outside their clothes???!!!! That's just stupid.

Posted by
14 posts

--"Do you mean they were wearing their neck pouches outside their clothes???!!!! That's just stupid."

Yep. Passport neck pouches. It's common sense, really.

Posted by
8 posts

I was recently pickpocketed in Paris and, amazingly, incredibly, retrieved my 190 euros. It's a colorful story, involving hot pursuit chase of evildoers and holding them for eventual arrest by police, probably not a recommended activity. Happily, they ended up stealing time and not cash or worse. This was beyond rare--extreme good luck.
Lesson learned--We all need to realize that pickpockets are an unfortunate fact. They're out in droves, especially in crowded areas, are more professional than we realize, and operate pretty much with impunity. If Rick Steves can get pickpocketed, anyone can. Theft of credit/debit cards, passports, etc., can not only ruin your trip, but mess up your life for 6 months or more.
I think a given product (money belt, security pants, etc.) is less important than a careful evaluation of security needs and associated behaviors. What do you need to carry for a day of sightseeing, museums, shopping, etc.? Can you grab a kleenex without inadvertently dropping a museum pass? How do you plan to reach bus tickets without exposing your credit cards? Can you access your coin purse without opening/exposing the main section of your handbag? Under what circumstances will you use a credit or debit card, and how will you do so securely, removing and then returning the card while protecting other handbag contents? Do you have a secure holder for your cell phone- a prime pickpocket target?
I have a very good cross body PacSafe handbag with lots of security features I now use to best effect, and my son has security pants with really deep pockets. For me, under clothing pouches are difficult to access for everyday use and make me look even fatter than I already am.
Discussions like this are really helpful in thinking over options. Thank you all!

Posted by
125 posts

I totally agree, it's important to think ahead; can I get to my hand sanitizer w/out pulling out my money, etc. I am always aware of this, even at home. It amazes me how many women leave their purses in their shopping carts, sitting wide open, and then turn or walk away. I won't even donate money in Red Cross boxes or homeless, etc....(for more than one reason) because I won't pull my wallet out so someone can see what's in it.

Posted by
138 posts

The best pickpockets are such excellent, professional-grade slight of hand artists! Because of that, I beg to disagree that "the best solution is to be aware and vigilant." When I was ripped off, my cross-body bag had the back seam sliced out without my even feeling it as I clutched the bag with my hand on the zipper, and I was constantly looking around and vigilant in that crowd situation. When I became aware what had happened, I was severely shaken. It was such a blessed relief, when I got to where I could sit down, to pat the lump of my underclothes wallet and know that my passport and the large part of my cash were still secure! "Good old Rick Steves!" I breathed with relief. I'd backed up my hard-drive before I left home, and didn't have passwords. bank numbers or other sensitive information on the inexpensive laptop that was stolen. I myself don't usually take a phone, but how do you feel about a "burner" (cheap) phone, just for the trip? (Especially now that so many of us have e-mail and other data on their phones.) With a cheap phone, you can still be reached if your father has a sudden emergency. In conclusion, my advice is to follow Rick's advice and keep what you can't afford to lose inside your clothes. Take two cards, and only have one of them out from under your clothes at a time. Have a plan in place for if you get separated....such as, "We'll meet by the clock tower in the town square."
Another incident I experienced took place in Spain, as the group looked over an ancient bridge in one of the hill towns....a young collegiate-looking couple, pushing a baby in a stroller, walked behind us and unzipped every single backpack in the group, no one felt a thing! (Of course I know that none of us keep important stuff in backpacks, but it's an example of that professional pickpocket's skill.) Another incident: a group member had their purse taken off their chair, inside the hotel breakfast room, when they went to the breakfast bar to get something to eat. So I hope that helps, Libby!