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Top 5 Unusual Pick Pocket Schemes & How to Outsmart Them!

by Sara Piali

pickpocket photo courtesy of Be My GuestAs much as we all love travelling and the amazing moments we stumble upon, it can be frustrating at times if you don’t have your wits about you. Pickpockets and con artists are of course everywhere in the world including Europe.

If you’re a student with a backpack, or a walking tourist cliché with a fanny pack, or bum bag as we say in Europe, you know to beware of overfriendly locals in Naples, Rome, Barcelona and Paris, just to name a few cities with a reputation for helping you “lose” your purse. Here are some outlandish examples from real tourists who have saved their own wallets!

1. The “Pigeon Poop” in Barcelona, Paris and London

The Scam: Someone drops  lotion on your shoulder from above as you are riding the escalator. The guy next to you just seems to be this nice stranger who alerted you to the “Pigeon poop” on your jacket. Just as you get off the escalator, the man will offer to clean it off (Right before he cleans out your wallet). Defense: Tell him to keep his distance and politely decline help thus preventing him from invading your “Personal space”.

2. The “Fire Drill”:

The Scam: A group of 4 surrounded your car at the four doors and try to jump in at a red light. They either make you drive a couple of blocks or just take your bag and jump out before the light turns green.

How to outsmart ‘em: Simple. Lock your doors. And remember that the automatic 4-door lock is your enemy as well as your friend. If one of them points out that you “Have a leak/flat”, don’t press the button!

pick pocket photo courtesy of Be My Guest3. The Classic “Motorcycle Drive-by” in Rome and Barcelona

The Scam: A guy on a motorcycle sped by close to the curb, next to a woman. He hooks the strap of her shoulder bag/purse as he passed. The Defense: Walk with your hand stuck in your pocket! The theif’s reach will be unbalanced by the resistance when the bag doesn’t immediately slip off.

4. “Inexact” Change

Ok, so this isn’t strictly a pickpocket maneuver. It’s still crazy, because it happens in “respectable” businesses everywhere.

You pay cash and receive much less change than owed. First the waiter/clerk will  a) swear they don’t speak your language and can’t understand you, and then both he and the manager (who acted as if he didn’t speak English either), lie to the customer’s face.  The Defense: Our friend only got his proper change when he threatened to “Put in your windows” (Break the windows). Pay exact change. If you don’t have exact change, give as little extra as possible.

5. The “Savior”

Sometimes people have the audacity to mug you from behind, choke you out and then “Help you” as you regain consciousness! That happened to a man in Barcelona who was searched while unconscious, and since he had little of value, was not robbed. While you’re busy thanking them for saving your life (as he was), they pat you down to “Feel” for your injuries, smile and make a getaway. It’s only then that you check your wallet. So carry a “Dummy wallet” with real cash, one ID. You might just find your stuff intact! And start screaming for the police immediately. Don’t stop, and see what these “Good Samaritans” really do.

You can pick up additional tips from the “Pick Pocket King” Vincent Arno, at his blog, Thief Hunters.

Written by Sara Piali for Amsterdam Holiday Apartments – Be My Guest

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