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Pickpocket safety?

I would like some feedback and or advice regarding cutting down chances on being the victim of a pickpocket.
On a previous visit to Europe we did have a couple of incidents of attempted events. We were very grateful and appreciative of the locals who were instrumental in preventing us from becoming victims! I would like to know if anyone has had experiences using the Scottevest system of pockets and how safe it is as far as protecting your valuables.

Posted by
333 posts

Personally, I think it comes down to educating yourself and being aware and smart. Read the section here on common pickpocket schemes and then apply a heavy dose of common sense. Pay attention to your instincts and if a stranger approaches you outside of what is expected for where you're at (such as filling out a survey outside of the lourve or wanting you to hold their baby, or shoving you on the subway) have your red flag at caution. This doesn't mean you need to be a worry wart and walk around expecting evil at every turn. But if something seems strange, unusual or too good to be true- there's probably a reason for it. On my first trip to Europe a few years ago with my 20 year old daughter, we were exposed to a few different incidents, but fortunately came out victors instead of victims.

I've praised my pac-safe backpack several times on this forum. I don't like the feel of a moneybelt. So we had our backpack and then I wore a neck wallet for ready cash and passport/ticket storage. However, the neck wallet made me look deformed and irritated my neck on hot days. So for my upcoming Europe trip I purchased a cute pac-safe crossbody bag. The bag is the size of a purse and should hold my jacket, little camera, money and passport with no problem- leaving my hands free. The bag is slash proof and would be difficult for a pickpocket to manage unless you're cooperating with him. Worn with the bag in front, your valuabes are as secure as they can be without you being physically accosted- which is highly unlikely! That being said, if you're careless with the bag, slinging it over a restaurant chair as you eat, or setting it at your feet on the metro/tube, you blink and it's gone. If it's valuable to you, you'd best keep it attached to you out in public. Find what you think will work best for you. I can't speak for the vest, though I'm sure others can and will.

Have a great time on your trip! Europe is as safe as anywhere else if you employ a little research and a lot of common sense.
Lisa

Posted by
8009 posts

I am good with the money belt for deep storage. I really never feel it is there! For my day money, phone etc I just use a LeSportSac Everyday purse. I wear it cross body with the zippers toward the front side of my body and my hand holding the zipper ends and purse strap. I particularly pay attention to having my hand over the strap/zippers when I am in a crowded area or an area with lots of confusion.

Do practice situational awareness as Rankster indicates. This is easier the more you travel, but as a novice and someone who has never lived where there was public transportation I have had to work on this. Being shoved in a metro car is a prime example. I was with a RS group in Paris boarding the Metro. We got shoved from behind and as we were talking about it one of our group found a hand in his pocket (nothing in the pocket!). I realized that shove should have been a red flag to go on high alert. The incident was not over when the shove happened, that was the beginning of it. We all learned to exit the Metro car, go directly to the wall and wait a minute until the rushing people go on ahead then follow the herd.

Posted by
117 posts

As the others have said, for us, education was the key. We familiarized ourselves with the different scenarios, and along with wearing our money belts, everything was fine. That's all.

Sorry, no help regarding the Scottevest system.

Posted by
762 posts

I do have a Scottevest and carry a Pacsafe purse. I believe that being aware is more help than anything, bot I like the Pacsafe purse. The Scottevest I like most for the flights, many things I need will be in the Chloe hoodie, earphones, tissue, handwipes, some Motrin, a silk scarf, mints. I do not have to reach under the seat for every little thing, which is more comfortable for me. It is warm and I use it under a rain jacket in wind and rain. I always travel with the 2.

I have a couple of experiences with attempted pickpockets. The first in Venice, in a crowded walkway, I felt some liquid on my hand and someonepointed to it. It was suspicious, so Icontinued walking, stopping where it was less crowded and I could put my back against a building and see all around me. It was just some thick white goop, I suppse to look like pigeon poo. Easily wiped off. If I would have hesitated or stopped, I suspect someone behind me would have hands in my bag the second was in Paris on the metro; 2 friends & I were entering a train with 2 or 3 young women. One blocked my way and another had her hands in my friend's purse. Luckily nothing was taken, but the zippers were opened. She did feel the purse hit her body and did grab the girl's sweater and yelled at her. She barely made it off the train, her accomplice pried the doors back open. My friend added a carabiner to the zipper tabs.

That is what works best for me. Pickpockets are smart and experienced. I know I can be distracted in unfamiliar settings when travelling.

Posted by
852 posts

I have a Scottevest vest and hubby has a Scottevest jacket. I keep my passport and extra credit cards in a neck wallet that is under my shirt. The scottevest inside pockets are used for daily money, camera and other incidentals. This way I don't carry a purse and have hands free. Feels good to me. It is also useful on the plane so I don't have to keep digging in a backpack or purse.

Have a great trip
Mimi

Posted by
852 posts

Forgot to tell you that I feel very comfortable with the security of the Scottevest. We usually travel in fall when it's cool, so the vest is zipped and the inside zippers are zipped. Especially with my hands free, I feel pretty secure. My hubby caught a man's hand in his pocket on the bus in Rome, It was a pants pocket with nothing in it. Hubby yelled at him and he got off at the next stop. An Italian man on the bus fussed at him also.

Posted by
8927 posts

IMO, Situational awareness doesn't mean squat. When I'm on vacation the last thing I want to do is act like a squirrel scanning for hawks every 30 seconds. The odds are with the pickpockets, they're better at robbing you then you are at spotting them. I always work under the assumption that I will be robbed, just keep a days spending money in my wallet and everything else in a money belt or hotel room safe, never constantly looking over my shoulders. If it's my unlucky day I'm just out 50 euros, I'll laugh it off and keep traveling. It makes for a more enjoyable vacation.

Posted by
265 posts

Thanks to all for their input! I am looking forward to using a Scottevest jacket to possibly eliminate the need for a purse, but it sounds like I should also utilize an additional "safe" place for documents and money. On our last trip we might just have had luck with us using a small nondescript backpack for these things.

Posted by
767 posts

Everyone has a different method (see above posts). But I think the common theme is to not keep all of your money/credit cards in one place. I always carry a small amount of cash and one credit card in my wallet in my crossbody bag. The rest of my cash and other credit card are somewhere else (usually in a hotel safe).

Posted by
507 posts

Pat,

I just bought for Christmas ScotteVest Sterling jackets for each of the people travelling w/me in the Spring.

I am impressed Scott Jordan gives a $1,000 warranty against pickpockets. This is a jacket that one can zip the sleeves off to make it a true vest. This is a lightweight jacket, also.

One daughter (40 yrs old) went overseas on business last week. I will check to see if she took her jacket w/her & how she liked it.

Posted by
16817 posts

Whether you choose a vest or jacket or a money belt under your regular clothes, you have to wear it all the time. I prefer a small, hidden money belt under my clothes for deep storage, plus a cross-body purse or day bag that has not only 50-100 euros for use that day, but also my map and other handy items.

http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams

Posted by
112 posts

Some thoughts especially for guys. My money belt is one of those with a loop so you attach it to your belt and it comfortably hangs down between your pants and underwear. Here is one Eagle Creek example: comfortable money belt

Also this is my adaptation of a "bra stash". No I do not wear a bra :) . I wanted a small pocket that could hold my credit card. I bought an Eagle Creek item shown here: small pocket with snap. Then I bought one of those loop key rings at the hardware store that has a screw opener. I just loop that key ring through my pants loop. Then I attach the little pocket with the credit card around that loop and tuck it into my pants. Easy to fish out the credit card for restaurant payments, etc.

Posted by
1529 posts

My preference is to avoid visiting our foreign embassies or making long distance calls to my credit card company, so that stuff goes in either a neck wallet or money belt. I usually wear a cami, so the neck wallet is less noticeable and my husband usually tucks in his shirt, so he's good to go. Then I just carry the rest of my stuff ( and enough cash to get by but not so much I'd be devastated if it got snatched) in a bag like the locals.

Also, if I wouldn't do it at home, I don't do it in a foreign country. I avoid being approached by people with petitions (mostly) outside my supermarket or malls, I don't take that "free" piece of candy from the kiosks at the mall, I wouldn't take a flower from some random person on the street, and if I'm not the person that can offer the most effective help, then I stay out of the way of someone that can. Does that make sense? My time is precious, especially when I travel.

Posted by
167 posts

I have had a scott vest for about 8 years. I always use it for the airport and wear it on the plane, mostly for convenience and for putting important documents in one secure vest.
I have also been using pacsafe products for years.
I now wear the Scot vest and have 2 pack safe bags, the Venturesafe 252GII and the smaller Metrosafe™ 350 GII anti-theft daypack.
These bags may be smaller than many are willing to carry on a trip, but I have found that packing extremely light makes my travel much more enjoyable. When I get to my hotel, I will put my Scot vest with passport and most of cash and additional credit cards in a hotel safe or put the vest inside one of the pacsafe packs with a lock on the outside.
However, the most useful product in my years of solo travel has been the PacSafe WristSafe 150 Security Wrist Wallet. It is so ordinary looking, people are surprised when I access it to take out cash or credit card, people comment that they thought it was a wrist support device which it does resemble.
At one time I had a pacsafe neck pouch, but upon reflection having a very strong cord around one's neck which can be quite visible, it did not make sense to me to have something around my neck that could be grabbed!
I never carry my passport on my person when in the country, only a laminated copy and have never had anyone ask for it, in Spain, Austria, Portugal, I use the passport copy as an ID when needed for CC purchase or train ticket.
The only time I have ever lost anything it was totally my fault...arriving in Vienna several years ago, I went to buy a U-Bah ticket to go to my hotel and set down a very nice Osprey travel duffle and just walked away. Of course, when I returned it was gone. But nothing really of value which made me realize how light I could really travel! Actually a wonderful learning experience!

Posted by
10344 posts

For total pick pocket safety and peace of mind, do what Rick does and wear a money belt. After I got too chubby to wear the money belt in front, I just rotated it 180 degrees and wear it in the small of my back (under my trousers, of course). And then I never have to even think about pick pockets.

Posted by
3645 posts

Pat, to avoid the chance of being selected to be pickpocketed I do the following:

I wear next to no jewelry in Europe, including I only wear a thin gold band instead of my wedding ring (placed into our safety deposit box at home). I accessorize with scarves & plain earrings. I also don't select items that will stand out in a crowd, i.e. target the person with the red coat.

We always wear our money belt. My hubby doesn't like the normal RS one, but he's fine with the one that loops over his belt & hangs vertically. We only carry enough for the next lunch or dinner; otherwise, everything else is in the money belt.

We don't carry any electronics except a small camera.

I purposely don't get "penned in" as we're walking - just look ahead & think ahead. It's not uncommon for me to wait at a metro stop and board the next car instead if my intuition perks up. We're definitely walking all around enjoying the sites - just with an awareness of what's happening around us.

I always put change in the cases of good Paris metro musicians because I love hearing them (but not anyone who boards a metro). I have the coins handy, so I'm not reaching into pockets, etc. that might point to where I could be keeping anything else.

We review maps before we leave our hotel room, so we don't have that lost tourist look. I'll note metro stops on a post-it, so we don't need to pull out a map.

We travel by train and always put our 2 carry-on's above our seats, not at the end of the train car.

Do what makes you feel the safest and enjoy your trip!

Posted by
265 posts

Thanks to all for the the insightful advice!

Posted by
1257 posts

On BBC Radio this morning driving to work they had a guest who is a professional pickpocket, well does a show to show how easy it is to pickpocket and has pickpocketted the governor of the Bank of England, senior politicians and senior police officers, but not pickpocketed people on the street.

He said a few things I thought were worth sharing. It is how the pickpockets work on human nature. In a lot of public spaces there are often signs 'Caution - Pickpockets operate in this area.' Often the pickpockets are sitting underneath that sign watching as the passers by automatically pat themselves down giving away their wallets and purses.

The other was an example of a railway station where someone went to customer services to complain they had been pickpocketed, not that they had lost their purse or wallet. So the tannoy announcement was to advise the crowd 'pickpockets are operating in this area.' Resulting in the self pat down.

It was a illuminating glimpse into that world, he mentioned the ring scam. How the pickpockets operate on human nature. His advise is we are all vulnerable to this, the pickpockets have to be good readers of body language to avoid getting caught. And they tend to dislike buttons and zips on bags and pockets. His advise when I got to work and did not hear the rest of the programe was if the bag or pocket has a zip or a button, at the very least do it up.

Posted by
1 posts

I have three things depending on the time of year. All work well and give me complete coverage - at least that's what I believe. I have a travel coat, travel jacket, and what most folks would consider a "fisherman's vest." In all three cases there are multiple pockets inside (in the case of the coat and jacket) and many pockets in the vest. I attach a string to my camera that makes it just long enough to take a picture, and have it in my pocket. (This also avoids dropping my camera off a bridge if I get excited about the view!). So - in short, I'm hands free at all time - until I start buying souveniers and pick pockets would have a difficult time trying to get to anything on my person. I made the coat and jacket and bought the vest.

Posted by
265 posts

Thanks MC. Great advice about not advertising where you are carrying your valuables! And avshipley, I love the idea of having your camera on a string. I can tend to have butterfingers at times.

Posted by
518 posts

We've never been pickpocketed in Europe but have had other misfortunes (see my other posts). I generally carry cash, credit cards, and my passport in a money belt and a wallet with a lot less cash and one credit card. I wear jeans and with how tight the fit of my wallet is in my front pocket, I have no idea how anyone could shove a hand in there and successfully pull out anything. Nothing goes in my back pocket other than a lens cloth for my eye glasses. I do always carry either a backpack or messenger bag on me, for camera, guide book, water, etc.

One thing I want to point out: In the old days (pre-iPhone/smartphone) cell phones were smaller (but thicker/bulkier) and had cases with straps and clips that people wore on their belts. It was a far more utilitarian device. These days phone are more akin to a fashion accessory and gone are the clips and straps. Most people walk around just carrying it in their hands. This is a huge target for a thief. If a thief can snatch your purse or bag with the strap around your shoulder, grabbing an unsecured phone from your hand should be even easier. I've managed to secure a strap to my iPhone case so that whenever I take my phone out to take photos or do anything else, it's secured to my wrist with a strap (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005F1IAAQ?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage) . It's not the most elegant look and sends me back to 90's phone fashion, but that's a small price to pay for security.