When traveling to busy tourist destinations, one thing seems to be a universal problem: pickpockets. They wait for tourists in busy squares, train stations, buses, subways, and almost any place that you find a lot of people preoccupied with their cameras and whatever sight they came to see. Be on your toes and you won’t become a victim.

Guard Your Valuables

It is very important to keep your important papers and money hidden away in a money belt. Pickpockets have many ways to relieve you of anything they can get their hands on. If you don’t keep your money in loose pockets, no one can reach in and help themselves. When going out for the day, keep only the money you’ll need in a pocket. Leave your wallet at home when you travel (men) and carry a purse or backpack with only items that you can easily replace (women). The key is to keep your money and valuables close and not reveal their location. If you have to go into your money belt, go to a restroom or other private place to do it. Never let anyone know where you have your valuables.

I always keep a small amount of cash in my pants pocket and some extra in my sock. If I am the victim of a pickpocket, then whatever I lose will not ruin my trip or force me to make any changes in my plans.

I try to avoid going into my money belt at all during the day. If you don’t look like an easy target to the pickpockets, they will turn their attention to someone who does. I am amazed at how many people I see each time I travel who have all their valuables stolen by a pickpocket. Most times, they had all their important papers, cash, and credit cards in a wallet inside their purse. The pickpocket simply unzips the purse and relieves them of their wallet when they are distracted by whatever is going on.

Pickpockets know their business. They don’t want to get caught. They also don’t want to work hard. If you make it difficult for them, you won’t lose anything. They will avoid you.

I’ve been stalked by pickpockets three times in all the years I’ve been traveling.

The first time, a guy followed me onto a subway train in Paris. I felt his hand reaching into my pocket. I had only a map in one pocket, and a brochure in another. I never make it that easy for pickpockets to get anything. My wife saw the man reaching in my pocket and started to loudly object. He went and sat down and pretended nothing had happened.

The second time, a group of four of us were walking in Nimes, France, on our way to see several old Roman sites. As we were walking under a big tree, a man and a woman came up behind us and sprayed some green liquid on all of us (it was supposed to look and feel like bird droppings. I quickly realized that this was the scam I had read about, and alerted everyone that they were pickpockets. They had tissues and wet wipes and were offering them to us so they could get close enough to steal from our pockets and bags. We kept our distance. When I told the others that they were thieves, the pickpockets vanished. They knew exactly what they were doing, and how to make a quick exit.

The third time I encountered a thief was while standing on the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. A female pickpocket stopped next to me and got very close. I realized that she was reaching her hand into my pocket. When I turned to look at her, I could see that she had a cutout in her purse that she could put her hand through so it wouldn’t look like she was reaching for my wallet. I gave her a dirty look, and she quickly walked away.

All three times, I had nothing of value in my pockets. I had everything in my money belt. I was really glad not to have lost anything in those encounters.

Unfortunately, even when signs are posted warning people to be aware of pickpockets, people still lose their money. Twice we saw people in tears at the Trevi Fountain in Rome who lost everything.  Don’t let this happen to you! Wear your money belt!