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Pickpocketed-and happy about it!

Recently I was coming out of the Metro across from the Arc de Triomphe. I was the last one of about six of us. I was going slowly behind my sister in law who has trouble with stairs. Suddenly a man going down the other stairs hollered at me that there were pickpockets behind me. Sure enough, when I turned around, three young men were there, and one dropped and then picked up and handed to me something from my cross body bag. It was just a plastic envelope that I use to keep a few itinerary papers in. The guys just disappeared, of course.

Now, I think I'm fairly aware, and I knew that area was a problem area. I'd had my bag zipped and in front of me, but he'd slid it to my side and unzipped it and taken something from it without me knowing. They had not been directly behind me when I started up the stairs. I was concerned with protecting my sil and had no idea. It happened in moments.

So why am I happy? It served as an immediate lesson to everyone else in my group that, yes, I was right. I'd been telling them all about the pickpockets and had given them all money belts. They'd mostly listened but probably thought I was being paranoid.

My passport and big money were in my money belt, under my clothes. My daily money and my phone were in my bra. Loose change was in my pants pocket. My cross body bag held my camera, but that was the only valuable thing in it.

No harm done. Everyone increased their vigilance and protected their stuff. And I was right all along.

Posted by
8008 posts

I agree with you! It IS one of the situations where you hate to be right but confirmation for your travel planning skills.

Excellent that the man on the other side alerted you as well.

Posted by
1047 posts

I have found the French people to be very helpful in warning against pickpockets. In 1975, I traveled to Europe on my own. Back then, Frommers was one of the few resources available for traveling in Europe. I don't remember the warnings about picketpockets (there may have been), but I never heard of a moneybelt so I took a wallet. I tried to remember to keep it in my front pocket, but out of habit, it found its way back to my rear pocket. On numerous occasions, a Frenchman or woman would come up to me and point at my wallet, motion with their hand "no", and then point to my front pocket. They went out of their way to make sure I would not be a victim and I have remembered how kind they were to me to this day. I have returned to Paris on two other occasions and have found the French to be just as kind to me as before. After my first trip to Europe, I have always wore a moneybelt and did not have to worry about a lapse of memory ruining my vacation.

Posted by
1068 posts

While walking next to my girlfriend in Spain and woman came up to us on a bicycle and told me the 2 girls behind me were going through my backpack. I looked at them (now standing about 10 feet behind me) and, in no hurry, they slowly turned around and haughtily strolled away. Every zipper on my backpack ( a floppy soft one) was open. Of course my money and important documents were in my "hidden pocket" (I prefer those to money belts) and the few other things of value I had like spending money was distributed across various inside or zipped pockets on my person. However, they had apparently been able to open everything and ascertain a guide book, free tourist maps, a water bottle and few other odds and ends were not worth stealing. The point is, no one else was around (so no jostling, distractions etc.) my girlfriend was right next to me and saw nothing, while I felt nothing. It convinced me that my "being alert" may help a tiny bit (mostly with scams) but using a money belt/neck wallet/hidden pocket and distributing my spending money, tickets etc., was far more protection. I am glad the OPs story turned out like mine...... a lesson learned.

Posted by
2743 posts

I'm "glad" too that you were the victim in this teachable moment for your group!

Posted by
741 posts

That is exactly why I use my money belt, hubby has the moneybelt that attaches to his own belt sold here on Rick's and I have a Pacsafe purse for everything else like daily money and extra batteries etc for my camera and I wear my purse across my body with everything locked. I LOVE THAT PURSE. Got one for my Mom too and in 26 days in France (10 in Paris) nobody lost a thing.....Love it

My philosophy is WHY take any chances? I was not paranoid but it was to just put my mind at ease and go about our days.

Posted by
6554 posts

Another Paris trick is to catch tourists riding escalators down into the Underground system. One will get in front of you, and trip at the bottom of the escalator--with tourists falling over and over him in a pile.
Then their associates will go to work on those on the ground. They are just after cash.

What gets me is that the authorities know who these guys are, as they see them on closed circuit television all day, every day. It's almost like pickpockets are accepted members of society in many major European cities.

My wife walks close behind me, and we are not nice, easy going tourists in tight places where others will be in "my space."

Posted by
8008 posts

"Another Paris trick is to catch tourists riding escalators down into the Underground system. One will get in front of you, and trip at the bottom of the escalator--with tourists falling over and over him in a pile.
Then their associates will go to work on those on the ground. They are just after cash.
"

David, this happened to my Mom and Dad back in the early 80's in Paris. Dad figured it out when one of the guys pushed past them on the escalator (they were going up) and he quickly told Mom what was happening and to go immediately to the right at the top. Altho he was totally unathletic, he managed to leap over the faller as Mom diverted to the right...and the guys were up and gone before they knew it...off to try it on someone else, no doubt.

Posted by
2348 posts

Earlier in the day, our Paris Walks guide had given everyone a talk on keeping belongings safe, and pointed out some nearby petition girls. She said that recently there had been a lot of young men working crowds, and that they are harder to pick out. The girls with the long skirts and gym shoes are easy to see. The men blend in more.

Posted by
4448 posts

Every time I read someone in this Forum saying "I could never be pick-pocketed; I'd know if it were happening," I flinch. These people are professionals; they know what they are doing and they're very good at it.

I once had something taken out of my bag in a nearly empty Paris metro station. It wasn't what the fellow thought it was, so he dropped it on the floor, then tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to it, indicating "You dropped something!" I've always been amused by the fact that he made sure I got it back. It was one of those little tote bags that zips up into a wallet-sized pouch. The bag I was carrying it in was a RS Veloce cross-body bag, zippers closed. I did learn from that experience to never let my bag ride on my back hip - now I keep a hand on it, or wear it dead center in front.

Posted by
1160 posts

I was approached by a petition guy at the Arc also this past June. I told him to get lost and yelled to my husband to keep on walking away!
A man in the metro in Paris alerted us to some kids trying to get into my friends purse. We stopped them and they just taunted us!
The nice man took us to the police office down the hall to report it. Not sure what good that did but it made us feel better!

Posted by
12154 posts

@ Pam...I can see myself in that situation, which your folks went through, especially without being encumbered by luggage. Never happened traveling in Paris since 1973 but without luggage it would be easy to walk over, ie, flanking the "fallen." Key is to keep moving, don't linger.

Posted by
12154 posts

I have never been a pickpocket victim while traveling solo, assuming "they" can get me at all. The only time as a victim was with someone else, ie, as a couple. Safety in numbers may not necessarily be the case since as a group or a couple/pair, you're more likely to be distracted.

Posted by
11613 posts

I agree with Fred, a companion can be either an extra pair of eyes or a distraction, especially if one of the pair needs assistance.

Posted by
31216 posts

So far I've been fortunate and the scammers haven't been a big problem. On my last visit to Paris, when wandering about the Eiffel Tower and other locations, I wasn't approached even once by someone trying the gold ring / friendship bracelet / petition scams or anyone selling flowers (perhaps I should change deodorants?). I have been "probed" by pickpockets when viewing the Mona Lisa, but they didn't get anything even though I was packing camera gear, some cash and an iPhone.

Posted by
8008 posts

"* I have been "probed" by pickpockets when viewing the Mona Lisa,*"

Oh my word Ken. Yes, I burst out laughing. Was just thinking of the scene in that room if aliens landed and started probing the scrum in front of Mona.

Posted by
31216 posts

Pam,

I couldn't think of a better word to describe the experience. There was no mistaking the gentle touch of fingers on my back pockets. I've heard that the Mona Lisa is a popular spot for pickpockets, as people are usually packed in like sardines and many are so engrossed in looking at the painting that they don't pay attention to other things.

Posted by
630 posts

I like to use these S-Biner Micro Locks on the zippers of my cross body and backpacks. They have a plastic lever in the middle that twists to lock the S-biner in place. It's another level of protection. You can get them pretty cheap as "add-ons" when making another Amazon purchase.

Posted by
7204 posts

I enjoyed having my used dirty kleenex in my front pocket as a hand quickly slid in and out as I walked Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg. I NEVER keep valuables in there, but on this particular occasion I had a sinus infection. Perfect!

Posted by
1571 posts

Hi Karen, thanks for sharing your story. This year I'm traveling with a person who refuses to wear a money belt (thinks it's silly, thinks I'm over-cautious). I'm thinking about all the time we're going to waste replacing her stuff if and when she is pick-pocketed.

Posted by
2348 posts

Kaeleku, I don't care if you don't wear a money belt. I am not on the Money Belt Compulsory Use Commission. On this forum we share tips and information, and pointing out dangers is part of that. Losing money and passport overseas is more of a problem than losing it at home. But I only care about me. Me, me, me, it's all about me! If my travel companion has to replace a passport, it will affect my travel and my vacation. I'm sure that's why Donna wants her friend to use one.

Posted by
18117 posts

Also, if someone says a person who chooses to take sensible precautions is being silly, I suspect that first someone is the sort likely to be careless with his/her possessions, and thus more likely than average to lose them. How many people on this board--typically well-traveled folks--have mentioned being pickpocketed (whether or not they actually lost something of value) without noticing it until later? There's a tendency to assume that you'll always be able to spot a thief in time to avoid any loss. That's the first step toward letting your guard down.

Posted by
4448 posts

Right, acraven. We consider ourselves fairly sophisticated travelers, and we've been pick-pocketed 2 1/2 times. (I'll tell you about the 1/2 time some other time; it's my ghost or guardian angel story.)

Believe me, we did not know we were being picked at the time. We lost nothing of value, but still, it's an intrusion and an invasion of our personal space, as well as an object lesson.

These people are very good at what they do.

Posted by
12154 posts

True that times have changed. Until my 1999 trip, the 10th, I had never used a money belt in the 1970s and '80s and 1990s, first didn't know what it was, then didn't believe in it. Just to placate a friend of mine, I decided to use it on the trip in 1999, the arguments of the family were to no avail. Now I use the hidden pocket or the neck pouch, mostly both and also the waist belt, which I always wear going outside.

Posted by
330 posts

anyone ever pick pocketed in the US? I've never heard of it happening. I'm sure it has but it certainly seems to be more of a European thing.

Crime in general is very low in touristy spots in the US. Not sure how that compares to Europe.

Posted by
8924 posts

There are pickpockets at work at any touristy area, anywhere in the world- even the USA. You hear about it more in Western Europe because no other region on the planet has more popular tourist sites per square mile.

Posted by
18117 posts

My wallet was lifted from my purse in one of the Washington DC subway stations in 1976, but that's only one of three wallet losses I suffered during the 1970s and 1980s in DC. The other experiences were not so subtle. I have no statistics, but it's my impression that stealth threats like incidents of pickpocketing are more frequent in Europe, while more confrontational thefts are more common in the US.

But I could be wrong. My impressions may be based on too much time reading travel articles and living as a non-car-owner in a large US urban area.

Posted by
12154 posts

"Anyone ever pickpocketed in the US?" I know of one guy, then a middle age Finnish tourist, in SF in early 1980 not far from the Hilton Hotel. I was introduced to him after this occurrence.

Posted by
20966 posts

Our daughter-in-law lost her billfold from her purse at a bar in Manhattan within the last six months. She was at the bar after work with friends and sit her purse almost in front of her on the bar. But a slightly distraction, the zipper was opened and the billfold was gone. Wasn't noticed until she was leaving and noticed that the zipper was open. It can happen anywhere, anytime.

Posted by
8 posts

When in a not so nice area in an unfamiliar place- a brisk purposeful walk is a good defense.

Remember if you look confident and able you are a less desirable target. That's why tourists are seen as easy targets- in unfamiliar surroundings often easier to confuse and deceive. How often do you see a tourist standing looking at a map looking totally lost.

Posted by
8 posts

When in a not so nice area in an unfamiliar place- a brisk purposeful walk is a good defense.

Remember if you look confident and able you are a less desirable target. That's why tourists are seen as easy targets- in unfamiliar surroundings often easier to confuse and deceive. How often do you see a tourist standing looking at a map looking totally lost.

Posted by
8924 posts

When in a not so nice area in an unfamiliar place- a brisk purposeful
walk is a good defense.

As a tourist I don't want to do that. I want to walk at a slow leisurely pace, to admire the architecture, the people, and everything else. Wearing a money belt gives me the freedom to do that. If a get nabbed by Mr. Pickpocket I'm just out 50 euros and can shrug it off.

Posted by
12154 posts

Losing 50 Euro is bad but 50 Euro won't pay your parking ticket in SF.

Posted by
381 posts

Use common sense!!!! Just returned from Prague and witnessed a fellow traveler walk up to an ATM, prop his umbrella in front of him and remove his wallet from his back pocket. He then continued with his ATM withdrawal after returning his waller to his back pocket. If someone had been observing him they could have easily removed his wallet and run while he was focused on his transaction. We may be paranoid but my husband always travels with a neck wallet and I carry a small cross body back (wallet size) with a zipper and snaps. It stays under my coat or sweater always. On this most recent trip I reached out to take my husband's hand and he immediately turned away from me and swatted my hand!!! He thought I was a pick pocket and apologized but I was impressed with his quick reflexes!!!!!

Posted by
12124 posts

A few years back a young lady walked up behind me near the Arc de Triomphe and unzipped my back pack. Fortunately my spouse observed it and yelled out. What was curious was that it was crowded and dozens must have observed it but on one did a thing. On the next trip to Paris we sat under the Eiffel Tower and watched a group of girls about 50m away working the crowd. They pulled a number of wallets in plain view of dozens, including police, and no one said a thing. One young lady walked right past us with a wallet in her hands, pulled out the cash and tossed the wallet in the bushes about 1m from where we sat. Big smile on her face when she noticed I was watching. All the pickpockets I have seen in my life had the same taste in skirts.

Posted by
607 posts

"What was curious was that it was crowded and dozens must have observed it but no one did a thing."

But when you watched other people being pickpocketed at the Eiffel Tower, you also did nothing except check out the pickpockets' taste in skirts.

Posted by
12124 posts

Funpig, you are absolutely correct. If I had been closer, maybe I would have grabbed a hand. But sitting there watching the Paris police watching the well skirted ladies and then doing nothing .... I was just sort of stunned by it all. But that isn't an excuse. It was indeed a moral lapse on my part.

Posted by
1 posts

"Anyone ever pickpocketed in the US?" I live in the Boston area and a month or so ago was changing subway trains at the most central subway stop, Park Street. I had my backpack on my back, as I always do. When I got onto my next train and sat down, I saw that one of the zippers was widely unzipped. Nothing in the pack was missing (it's a fairly large pack and my wallet sits pretty low down in it), BUT my "Feel the Bern" political button was gone from the outside flap of the pack. I have to assume that the wannabe thief was not a Bernie supporter, but a hater who removed my button in order to throw it away. But I could be wrong.

Posted by
14 posts

I was in Barcelona in 2009 the day before my Rick Steves Spain and Portugal tour started. I was riding on the metro and like every good Rick Steves follower I had my valuables in my money belt. The only valuable thing I had exposed was a rather expensive and unique pair of sunglasses. I was standing hanging on to a pole when the car stopped and these two guys brushed by me and I heard a click like a pair of glasses being closed. They must have been amateurs or thought I was clueless because they stayed on the train! As soon as I confirmed that, yes, they were gone. I walked over and confronted them. I could see one guy trying to hide the glasses in his hands. I made like they were a couple of jokesters and smiled and pretended it was all a game. At the same time however I grabbed the guy’s wrist and motioned for him to open his hand. I grabbed the glasses and walked back to where I was, all the time treating them, despite the fact they were over 20, like a couple of little kids caught doing something they shouldn’t. They high-tailed it out of the car at the next stop and that was the end of it. In another situation I would perhaps not have been so direct in confronting them but in a crowded and moving train car there wasn’t much bad that could have happened so I wasn’t too worried.

Posted by
23 posts

In Tallin my wife and I were in the upper part of town which was very unpopulated that day. I was looking at art on the wall . Because this area looked so benign I had foolishly left my wallet in my back pocket(I knew better!) Aman came up and tried handing me a flyer and insistently pulling on my shorts with one hand. I felt his other hand in my back pocket and backed up slamming him against the wall and started yelling "police ". He ran off and I was shaken by the incident. So beware of beautiful innocent looking Tallin!

Posted by
1 posts

I had my pocket picked at the Rastro in Madrid. Thanks to a quick acting family member I got my wallet back including cash and credit cards. I learned a huge lesson on that trip.

But what happened next I will never forget. We stopped at a restaurant so I could grab a beer to calm my nerves. As I sipped my beer, in walked Rick Steves. I called him over - as if he were my best friend - and told him what happened. My copy of his Madrid tour book was out on the table and he picked it up, thumbed to the page on the Rastro and underlined the sentence that said "Beware of pickpockets in the Rastro". We laughed, he signed my book, shook hands and he was off.

Rick knows his stuff and he's a great guy!

John

Posted by
5 posts

I use a civita bag. After a couple attempts to unzip my bag, I finally came up with the idea to use the snap apart key rings and attach it to the 2 zipper tabs. My bag can not be unzipped without removing the key ring. It doesn't lock, but will slow down the pick pocket. Only thing in my Civita bag is tour books, sweater, nothing I don't mind losing. Only once did my husband get his days money picked. He had just donated to a busker, dropped his coin holder in his front pocket, then jumped on the train, followed by the p.p. In 2 seconds, the money was gone & the p.p. jumped off the train just as the doors slammed shut. This was great, because we were traveling with granddaughter and she learned first hand from this experience.

Posted by
42 posts

I always enjoy these posts; obviously a learning experience. When I was in the Paris Metro two young girls, perhaps 7 years old [turned out by their parents likely] ,tried to pick my pocket. I told them to go away, one of them spat at me as they left. I encountered a police officer a few stations later. Although sympathetic, he could only shrug and declare "Illes sont partout"- They are everywhere. For the record, I prefer the wallets that straps against the shin to money belts- even more difficult for thieves to access and less embarrassing to access than plunging into for your pants when necessary .

Posted by
1068 posts

The pickpockets strike when you are distracted. I had this happen in Madrid when I was exiting the subway station carrying my suitcase and holding the stairway railing. The pickpocket must have been new at the game (or I was lucky) because I saw her hand reaching around to get into my purse which was locked. She knew that I had seen her and quickly took off in the opposite direction. Please, people, secure your belongings in whatever method you find comfortable.

Posted by
416 posts

Two weeks ago yesterday we were boarding the train to leave Antibes for Nice with our luggage. My wife had already stepped up onto the train and I followed (wearing a backpack and pulling an almost-carryon-size roller bag), with perhaps 8 or 10 people behind me. I felt some fingers fumbling for the zipper on my lower right cargo pocket (Visa, and maybe €150), looked down and reached for the hand, but it pulled away. I instinctively spun around and gave a pretty good push to the person directly behind me that was trying to get into my pocket. It caused a momentary bit of confusion because several other people were pushed as a result. I saw a young woman dart back out onto the platform and I yelled "Pickpocket Pickpocket". A few people turned to look at her. She gave me a sour look.

After getting onto the train, an elderly French woman that got tangled up in th pushing made a point of saying to me " You don't treat a woman like that". Uh, ok. My wife later said that I should have told the French woman that we'll send the pickpocket over to her next time!

Posted by
12154 posts

@ Peter...Glad you avoided getting picked. On "You don't treat a woman like that.": Did you give the proverbial Gallic shrug as the response to her assertion?

Posted by
416 posts

Good morning Fred. No, I didn't, but what a perfect response that would have been! It says so much, without any words. Love it.

Posted by
35 posts

After years of avoiding pickpockets I dropped my guard and was stung last year on the Mexico city trains (Hidalgo station).
The classic case: It was a crowded platform when the train arrived. The doorway was partially blocked (no doubt by accomplices) and my wife entered the narrow gap first with her backpack on. As I entered after her I felt a bump on my side. The instant I was on the train I realised that I had been pick-pocketed. My lack of Spanish meant that I could do little. No doubt the perpetrator had passed my wallet on to accomplices of which I suspect there were a number. Next station most of those blocking the doorway (the thieves) left the train.
Lessons learned, many of which others have mentioned:
1. Do not put valuables in cargo pants.
2. Travelling in pairs puts you more at risk - wherever the "leader" goes you must follow and thieves can quickly position themselves in order to isolate you.
3. Do not carry valuables in external pockets at hip level. A button-up pocket in a shirt is one alternative. Another is a money belt or neck pouch.

4. If you are carrying valuables do not fiddle with them or "check" them while waiting on the rail platform. I am sure the thieves targeted us long before the train approached.
5. If you are on a day trip leave your passport and high-value cash locked in the hotel safe. Thankfully we did this.
6. Use a small cheap wallet or just carry a few low-value $ bills loose in your pockets for small purchases.
7. Wearing tight jeans makes it harder for thieves to pick your pockets.

BTW, my brother wasn't robbed in Paris but he had two fraudulent experiences. The first was when he found a "gold" ring near the Louvre - he picked it up and kept walking, ignoring some nearby protestations no doubt from the hustlers! When he got home he discovered it was a thinly gold-plated ring of insignificant worth.
The second one, on the same day and nearby, was when he was offered a Italian-label "leather" coat for 30 Euros. He bought it but didn't have the forethought to test it with a cigarette lighter. When he showed it later to me I did ...... and burned a hole in it!

Posted by
12154 posts

I don't have any experience in Spain. Cargo pants is not what I wear anyway. I don't leave the passport in the hotel room safe if on a day trip and taking a train to get there. The passport is on me just in case I'm asked.

Posted by
12154 posts

@ Peter...That assertion " You don't treat woman like that." must be some version of the movie title, "No Way to Treat a Lady" with Lee Remick and Rod Steiger.

Posted by
2 posts

I usually carry my wallet and important stuff in a neck pouch. If I know I'm going to be in a crowded area, I put one arm through the pouch's cord before putting my shirt on; the pouch is then securely under my armpit. I carry a small amount of cash in a front pants pocket. I also lock important things in my hotel safe, and usually carry just a photocopy of my passport.

One time I was on an uncrowded métro platform in Paris. I had just arrived at CDG, and was headed to my hotel, so I had luggage with me. Some gypsy kids brazenly put their hands into my pants pockets. Fortunately those pockets were empty. A person looked at me sympathetically, and gave a shrug with a helpless look on his face. I found out later that it is very challenging for the authorities to deal with these children. If they arrest a kid, whom do they release that kid to? The parents! Of course the parents are the very people who are teaching the kids the pickpocket trade.

I have been to France numerous times; I am a retired French teacher--a fluent speaker of French--and I have never had a really unpleasant experience there, even at times when I have never even opened my mouth. I have found the French to be very polite and accommodating.

Never think you are immune to having your belongings taken. Make it challenging for thieves to get at your belongings, and keep really important stuff in a secure location.

Posted by
12154 posts

"...the pouch is then securely under the arm pit." Just like a gun holster, very creative, innovative....thanks for the tip.

Posted by
42 posts

"cbyrne" describes a pickpocket attempt in Mexico City on the subway; the same thing happened to me several years ago at the Zocalo station. Must be a local speciality. I was able to swat the pickpocket's hand away as he undid the buttoned shirt pocket where I kept some bills as his accomplices pushed against me in the doorway of the carriage. The curious thing was that he knew where I kept my money. Then I remembered that I had taken it out shortly before at the ticket counter when buying the ticket. There had been no one else there - just the ticket seller and me. I suspect she was working with the thieves; tipping them off.

Posted by
1 posts

After reading this super informative and thought-provoking blog, I feel anxiety ridden. We're leaving for Paris & Barcelona next week. I've traveled in Paris 15 times since 1970 and never was pick-pocketed. I'd seen the adorable pick-pocketing kids traveling in packs at tourist sites and steered clear of them. But the level of "professionalism" and cleverness (audacity) of today's pick pockets is scary. The idea of creating big distractions with a TEAM (the escalator scheme) gives me the shivers. We're not as agile as we once were decades ago and could be targeted now for having white hair.

In 2010 my bag was stolen off the Thaly's high speed train to Brussels from Paris. I sat with a group of U.S. millennials and we took turns watching our luggage. One of them neglected his watch duty just at one stop and MY bag was the one stolen, very likely had been moved up several cars before train ever stopped at station. In retrospect I remember feeling suspicious of a woman in a seat on opposite side but facing me on a diagonal, a row back. She was on a cellphone & watched my every move & that of my companions. The police told me that cellphones were the new thing to abet criminals working in teams. How easy for her to report to someone in another car that a person had just gone to the loo & no one was watching. Bingo! Grab! Go! Roll it towards front of train & exit before anyone would notice the bag was gone. Horrible lesson...the culprits got all my warm clothing, personal photographs, and 20 year collection of junk jewelry (plus dirty laundry Ha!) Unfortunately I lost all of my research, contacts and first draft of my book. Nothing of value to the thieves but a world of loss to me. I now travel with strong bicycle cable locks for securing bags on trains hoping to slow down thieves.
PS: Forget BLACK luggage. Too common. I carry shocking pink with purple polka-dots now. Easier for police to find.

Posted by
20966 posts

Jmouse, we are in our mid 70s, fair amount of gray hair and we still haven't had any problems in nearly a full year of travel in all the pickpocketing hot spots in Europe. In addition to wearing money belts and not having anything of value that is easily accessible, we try also to be non predictive in our movements. You are correct that teams do work together and sandwich their targets. For example - where do all the people wait for the subway? In knot or a cluster of people at the track edge so if you are targeted, it easy for someone to get in front of you to block you so someone from behind can work over your pockets while you are standing there watching for the train. Where do we stand? We generally stand with our backs against the wall or well away from any knot of tourists. There is no prize for being first in the car. Then as the train is arriving we suddenly will walk briskly two or three cars further up or down the line and join the back of one of the other groups crowding to get on the car. No one has time to sandwich us.

We do the same thing for stairs/escalators. Everyone is shuffling along in a long line to get on the up escalator. Step out of the line, tie your shoe, wait 30 secs. If someone is trying to sandwich you, they have to keep moving if they step out of line with you it becomes obvious. If in a very crowded situation moving along a sidewalk, we might step aside for a few seconds. Just try to be a little random in your movements so you cannot be set up.

Posted by
12124 posts

jmouse, keep your valuables reasonably safe, maintain backups (split the cash and cards between the two of you), be somewhat aware of your circumstances, then don't worry about it or it will wreck your enjoyment.