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The Big Squeeze trick.

After leaving the International ticket bureau in the Milan Rail Station (note: thieves observe you must be a tourist as you have just been at the Internationl section.) Greg and I got on the upward escalator. A man pushed in front of Greg and another pushed in front of me. The front man dropped a cigarette lighter and under the pretext of tryng to retrieve it, we all fell on top of each other. The thief behind Greg was thus easily able to relieve him of his wallet. This team works in with someone with a business and they keep swiping the cards until in our case, they had obtained $2000 within 20 minutes. We were re-imbursed by our banks.

Posted by
6798 posts

Same scam on an escalator David has written about several times. It happened to him and his wife in Paris several years ago while they had their suitcases. Glad you got your money back and hope no one was injured. Bad enough losing a wallet, but imagine if you broke a bone or got caught in the mechanism!

Posted by
4011 posts

We had something similar happen on the Paris Metro some year back. Three young ladies, who looked like tourists, blocked the doorway to the train as they studied a map. In our naiveté, (it was early in our traveling career) we repeatedly asked them in French and English to let us through. When they finally got on, we were right behind them. They immediately jumped off, at which point DH realized his wallet was gone. Nothing in it though - maybe a few euros. (He keeps most of his money and all of his cards in his money belt, and some money in a front or inside pocket.)

Another lesson learned. That entire trip was a learning experience. We actually got pickpocketed twice. The first time it was me, and the thief returned the tote bag he had lifted from my day bag! (Lesson 1 for me: wear your cross body bag in front. It's obvious once you know it...)

Posted by
3807 posts

Had two girls hit the emergency stop on an escalator in Paris then immediately try to 'help' me get my carry on up the steps. It was a Sun morning, only people around were me, hubby and the two girls. I saw them hit the emergency stop, but it didn't click in for a few seconds, I thought - oh, the escalator broke...nope, those girls hit the stop button! Hubby already at the top. I struggled with them, so they buggered off, but I swear the top pocket zipper on the suitcase wasn't open before they 'assisted' me. Luckily, nothing of value in the pocket of the suitcase except for some tissues and maybe a sewing kit.

Posted by
1568 posts

Thanks for posting - I find it very helpful to read about the things thieves will do to steal your valuables. Helps me stay vigilant. My ATM card was stolen from me in Rome a year ago and I learned from that to not go to an ATM on the weekend, only at a bank during business hours during the week. If I have a problem, can go directly in to speak to the Manager.

Posted by
5704 posts

Same thing happened to us on Ponte Accademia in Venice.

Posted by
315 posts

Thank you for expressing your experience. We will keep a look-out for potential thieves.

Posted by
2040 posts

Just as a point of information, I have watched kids pul this same trick at the former Gallery, the downtown shopping mall, in Philadelphia. This is not just a European scam.

Posted by
4821 posts

My ATM card was stolen from me in Rome a year ago and I learned from that to not go to an ATM on the weekend, only at a bank during business hours during the week. If I have a problem, can go directly in to speak to the Manager.

I am curious, if your ATM card was stolen, presumably by someone on the street, why would a Bank Manager be able to do anything for you?

Posted by
2 posts

Regarding query about PIN No on cards, the thieves don't need a PIN , they just need an accomplice who has one of those

click-clack machines to process the card for as much as they can.
Regarding the query - how could our bank manager, in New Zealand help?, all fraudulent transactions on your card will be refunded by the bank once you can provide a Police Report of the offence (which we obtained from Milan Rail station Police) .

Posted by
2372 posts

Thanks for the warning. Sorry for your loss and glad you didn't break a bone when knocked down! I hope this does not happen to you again on any future trip.

In London, one trick is the "stop and bump" routine, which was used on me. You're waiting to get on the tube, train comes, doors open. One partner was in front of me, one behind. A young woman who was in front of me stopped suddenly one foot inside the tube car door, her partner bumped me from behind, his hand going in the top of my purse and removing 15 to 20 pounds I had in the (zipped) side pocket. Then both people exited the tube and were standing together on the platform as the tube car pulled away. The rest of my cash was in my moneybelt. The extra that had been stolen from my purse (yes, I am certain that's when and where it happened) had been just pocket change for drinks and snacks. (Westminster tube station, waiting for the Circle line to travel east).

No big deal, no one was hurt, just irritating when some people make a living by stealing.

Posted by
5817 posts

I don't think anyone has ever said there are no pickpockets in London! Of course there are.

What IS regularly said is that the risk from crime is not the same everywhere and that certain types of crime are more common in some cities, and areas of cities, than others.

London has pickpockets and scammers, some that target tourists, many that don't, but they don't operate in the same way as those commonly experienced in cities like Paris or Rome.

To try and apply a broad brush approach "Europe is full of pickpockets!" Is wrong and unhelpful.

Posted by
2372 posts

Emma, good advice. I was wondering, you said,
"London has pickpockets and scammers, some that target tourists, many that don't, but they don't operate in the same way as those commonly experienced in cities like Paris or Rome."

What are the things one should be aware of in London that you were thinking of?
How do the pickpockets in London operate?
Much appreciate your advice on this.

Posted by
5817 posts

Rebecca, I'm not actually sure I have the energy..As a topic it is so overdone. The obsession is downright weird and probably self perpetuating but if it helps..........

The point is that (generally) London doesn't tend to have the scams so (apparently) common elsewhere. You are unlikely to see the "ring scam", "petition scam", " ketchup on clothing" etc. Never say never, but they really aren't common. As a side issue you will not see taxi scammers at the main stations either.
So people don't need to worry too much about those.

Street crime is much more opportunistic. If you leave something exposed to steal someone might (emphasis on might, not will) attempt to take it. So don't carry valuables in your pockets, don't carry things in open bags, don't carry valuables in the outside pockets of bags, don't leave coats and bags unattended, don't leave phones out on tables. When travelling in crowded areas, such as the tube, carry your bag to the front, not on your back. Backpacks are a pickpockets gold mine. All of this is just common sense and I can't imagine the situation is any different in the US or elsewhere.

Areas where pickpocketing is more likely. At busy tube stations during the rush hour. In the main busy shopping areas e.g. Oxford Street, Kensington High Street, where tourists are not specifically targeted. They are more likely to go for shoppers who look like they are carrying a lot of cash and bags and are distracted. They often observe people at tills and cash points to see where they put their purse/wallet so if you are spending money make sure you put your money well out of sight in your bag.

A more common London problem is phone theft, especially near tube stations. Opportunistic thieves will simply snatch the phone from the hands of distracted commuters. Not so common in the centre of town, more common at inner suburban tube stations. So don't wave your phone around, again common sense.

Posted by
2372 posts

Emma, thank you for that information and for your excellent advice! Have a good weekend.

Posted by
663 posts

There may be places where pickpocketing is more of a problem than elsewhere, but in general, I believe that wherever there are crowds, and especially wherever there are people that are in some way disadvantaged or inexperienced (elderly, tourists, people with lots of baggage) there are pickpockets, and it's always good to be wary in that kind of place.

And pickpockets do use the internet and are well informed, I am sure. If a scam works in Buenos Aires, why shouldn't they try it in London? Or if something works in Paris, why shouldn't it work in Rome? Some tricks may be more popular in a certain place or at a certain time (like we've had the "nephew scam" in recent years which doesn't affect tourists but elderly people), but in general, I am convinced that they will try whatever people fall for and whatever the authorities are least successful at fighting.

So thanks for sharing this one; it's good to be aware of the ones that seem to be popular at the moment.