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10 Ways to Protect Yoursef from Pickpockets
Pickpockets: What to Watch For & How to Protect Yourself
Compared to many other tourist-rich countries Italy is relatively safe and in most places you don't have to be worried to walk alone or at night. Of course, like anywhere, if there are many people and especially a lot of tourists there is always a chance for crimes, like pickpocketing. While one can never protect themselves fully from such things, there are certainly steps you can take to make sure you're not the victim of a pick pocket while in Italy.
1. Beware of Children
We all love children and we all definitely feel bad when we see
children forced to beg for money on a street corner. Unfortunately, in some cases caring can be detrimental. While you may want to help, you have to remember that many of these children have been trained to steal and are used because people immediately trust and want to help them. Always beware when showing a child money or reaching out to them.
2. Street Bumping
One technique that is very popular and can be extremely damaging to your wallet is "bumping." A man or a woman accidentally bumps into the victim and rapidly steals their wallet; sometimes "bumping" involves two people, one actually colliding with you, and the other taking advantage of the commotion to steal. Be aware, as these people are professionals and any theft during a bumping will occur at lightning fast speed and many only realize their wallets are missing later on, when they need to use them.
3. Lost & Recovered Wallet
The best strategy to steal money is actually the one where the thieves pretend to be honest. After stealing a wallet, a wristwatch or a piece of jewelry (often while using the bumping technique described above) the thief actually returns it to the victim, pretending to have found the goods on the ground. At this point the victim is happy and although surprised, is usually willing to pay a reward. This way, cash is earned out of a crime and the victim is very "happy" to have been robbed even if they're not aware it happened.
4. Sliding a Purse
This usually happens in very crowded areas or on a bus. Someone uses a shaving blade to slice the purse open and take whatever is inside. It is very common for the owner of the purse, the bag or laptop case not to even realize this is happening.
5. Scooter Steal and Run
A very dangerous scenario is when a thief runs on a scooter and steals a bag or a purse. The elderly are often a target of this scheme, as they are slower to react, but it could happen to anyone. This particular trick is very dangerous because one's natural reaction is to try to protect their property, which often results in injuries.
6. Mom Holding a Baby
This is by far the most despicable scenario when it comes to small theft and pickpocketing techniques. The thief, usually a female, holds a baby to attract attention and appealing for money from passers by. When people stop to offer money either the woman, or another child, will steal from the unwilling victim; this trick is usually pulled by gipsies and is very common in larger cities and towns.
Brave and shameless pickpockets in Italy.
7. Gang Surrounding
This is likely the most terrifying type of robbery and the most difficult to defend against. If you're surrounded by one or more people threatening you, often with a weapon, the best thing to do is give up all your belongings immediately.
8. Credit Card Forging
While this is not an act of pick pocketing per se, it still represents a theft, which is very hard to detect in real time. It happens in restaurants and retail places just like it does in North America. The credit card is given to be charged, and it is cloned then returned to the customers. At this point, a forged credit card is made and third parties can access your credit. It is almost impossible to realize what has happened, unless you constantly monitor your spending. It can be really dangerous when debit cards are used, as cash is taken out from the account and extremely difficult to retrieve.
Pickpockets in Rome.
9. Keep Money in Hard to Reach Places
Pickpockets are often very skilled and the best way to protect against them is to make their jobs harder. Don't keep your money or wallet in the back pockets of your pants and don't carry a very large bag. Instead, think about storing money in your front pockets, in your shoe or in a crossbody bag. Also, if travelling in a group, split up funds so even if one person is robbed not everything will be gone. It's also a good idea not to walk around with more than you need in your pockets. Purses and luggage should never be left unattended. Ladies, try not to leave purses hanging on the back of chairs or under tables in restaurants.
10. If Something Does Happen...
Don't feel embarrassed, things like this happen to everyone and Italians are victims just as often as tourists. Keep calm and dial 113 (the Italian equivalent of 911), to report the accident to the police. In case your documents are also stolen, do contact immediately your embassy.