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How to Avoid Pickpockets

Nothing ruins a trip faster than getting pickpocketed (Chipp knows from experience…). So, we’ll use this article as a tutorial for the best ways how to avoid pickpockets. 


In addition to writing about his and Jenna’s travel and work adventures, Chipp is a CPA and founder of Walutes Capital, a real estate development and accounting firm. Wearing this “other hat,” Chipp offers real estate investment and development consulting services to clients. If you’d like help with your own real estate investing journey, contact Chipp here to set up an appointment! 

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Chipp’s Experience Getting Pickpocketed


Shortly after college graduation, Chipp was bumming around Athens with a friend. After an unnecessarily late night of drinking, he was waiting for a train at a metro stop. Wearing sunglasses in the dark while aggressively hung over, travel backpack on his shoulders and daypack on his chest, in retrospect, Chipp looked like the perfect mark. 


As we boarded the train in an otherwise fairly empty station, a half dozen or so teenage boys josteled through the sliding doors at the same time. With each loud noise feeling like a jackhammer in his head, all Chipp wanted was for the boys to stop yelling and to find a seat on the train. 


Right as the doors were about to close, all of the boys jumped off the train. Before even checking for his wallet, Chipp knew he’d been pickpocketed. He watched helplessly as the train slid away while the boys rifled through his wallet before tossing it, empty, in a trash can. 


It sucked. 

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Tips to Avoid Pickpockets


So, having prefaced the article with that story about what not to do, here are six tips for how to avoid pickpockets while traveling: 


  • Maintain situational awareness: More than anything else, keeping your wits about you will help prevent pickpocketing. Understand where you are relative to people you don’t know. In crowded situations, keep your head on a swivel. Yes, you want to soak in the sights while traveling, but don’t make yourself an easy, clueless victim. If you’re alone, don’t walk around with your headphones in - sacrifices one of your keys senses in terms of solid situational awareness. 

  • Watch each other’s back: When traveling with someone else, always watch each other’s back, especially during vulnerable periods. For instance, taking money from an ATM makes you extremely exposed. You’re focused on the screen in front of you instead of what’s going on around you. In these situations, make sure one person has his/her eyes on the street while the other uses the ATM.  

  • Avoid “flashy” accessories: Pickpockets don’t want to rob people who don’t have money. When traveling overseas - especially in new places - avoid wearing flashy, expensive accessories. Instead of that shiny new watch, maybe get a cheap digital for the trip. Leave the Yves Saint Laurent purse at home in favor of an inexpensive, durable alternative. You don’t have to dress like a bum, but you can make conscious decisions about what you wear and carry to minimize your likelihood of being targeted by a pickpocket. 

  • Don’t leave purses or phones on cafe/restaurant tables: This may not qualify as “pickpocketing,” per se, but tons of people get robbed as targets of opportunity. They leave something expensive on an outdoor table, and someone runs by and grabs it. Keep your bags and phones hidden or secured under a table, especially if you’re in an outdoor cafe or near a restaurant’s door. 

  • Diversify your risk: This tip is less about avoiding being pickpocket and more about minimizing the damage if you are pickpocketed. Instead of keeping “all of your eggs in one basket” (i.e. a single purse or wallet with all your cash, cards, and documents), keep important items separate. For example, when walking around a foreign city, Chipp no longer carries a wallet. Instead, he keeps a couple days spending cash in one front pocket, a phone in the other front pocket, and a credit card and (non-passport) ID in some sort of interior, ideally zipped, pocket. Keeping goods in front pockets lets you have more situational awareness, and by spreading your items around, you minimize the negative impact if any one item gets pickpocketed. 

  • Keep valuable documents and extra credit cards in a travel money pouch: When posted up in one city for a while, we leave our valuable travel items (e.g. passports, back-up credit cards, emergency cash, etc.) locked up in a hotel safe or hidden in our AirBnB. But, when moving from spot to spot, you need to have these items with you. To minimize risk, we’re firm believers in travel money pouches that can hang from your neck underneath a shirt or jacket - much more difficult to target for pickpockets.

Strolling through Cape Town

Strolling through Cape Town

What to Do if You Get Pickpocketed


Unfortunately, even if you take the above precautions, you can still get pickpocketed. Thieves can get pretty creative. This leads to the next question: what should I do if I get pickpocketed? While every situation differs, here are four steps you should definitely take:


  • Cancel your credit and debit cards: You don’t want to exacerbate a bad situation by letting a pickpocket run up a bunch of charges. As soon as you know you’ve been robbed, log onto your online accounts and lock your cards. Then, you can order a replacement card with the knowledge that you won’t be on the hook for subsequent fraudulent charges. 

  • File a police report: Next, you’ll want to a file a police report. It’s 99.99% likely the local police won’t help recover your stolen goods, but you’ll now have an official record of the theft. You can then use this documentation to support credit card fraud challenges and, as required, a travel insurance claim.

  • If you lose travel documents, file a report at the closest embassy or consulate: Losing a passport overseas can be a nightmare. But, that’s also why consular services exist. If a pickpocket steals your passport, get to the closest consulate or embassy as quickly as possible to order a replacement. Each one of these diplomatic posts has departments for just that purpose. 

  • File a travel insurance claim: If you have a travel insurance policy, you’ll eventually want to file a loss claim (assuming your policy covers theft). Depending on the policy, the insurer may be able to quickly get you more money or assist in any other travel-related hassles caused by your loss. 


Travelers may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of theft, but by taking the above steps, you can help yourself avoid pickpockets while overseas.

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