How to Avoid Pickpockets (13 Tips You Should Know)

When it comes to pickpocketing, you’re not just up against petty thieves—you’re squaring off with cunning artists of deception. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “keep an eye on your bag” advice; this is street-smart intel that turns you from an easy mark into an unappealing target.

I’ve dug deep, consulting with criminal psychologists, ex-pickpockets, and seasoned travelers to give you an insider’s look into the mind of a pickpocket. What lures them? What deters them? We’re about to get into the nitty-gritty details that can be the difference between a peaceful journey and a ruined vacation.

Ready to transform yourself from a potential victim to the one who walks away untouched? Buckle up, because this is going to be a revelation.

how to avoid pickpockets

Do Not Carry More Than What You Need

Do not carry too much cash and expensive gadgets you do not need. Carrying too much cash, expensive jewelry, accessories, and gadgets can quickly make you a target because pickpockets will see a high potential payout.

Consider leaving expensive items and other valuables in your hotel room safe or in the hotel’s safety deposit boxes.

Carry only what you need for the day and what you are prepared to lose.


Try to Blend In

Do not dress to impress and avoid the type of clothing that many tourists wear. Tourists are recommended to dress casually. That said, tourists naturally will stand out from the local crowd, but that does not mean one cannot take some precautions in order to blend with the crowd a little better.

It can be beneficial to research what people tend to wear in the country you are visiting. There are countries where people may dress very casually, while in others, a smart casual style may be more common.

Generally, it is recommended to avoid wearing unnecessarily expensive clothing that will immediately make you stand out.

Thieves often look for people who may also be wearing expensive watches and shoes because this is a good sign that this person may also be carrying other valuables and cash.


Do Not Flaunt Cash and Expensive Accessories

Flashing large wads of cash can quickly catch the attention of the wrong people. Even taking your wallet out to pay at the store may allow people to check how much money you are carrying and, most importantly, where you are carrying your wallet.

Keep enough cash to last you a couple of days at most, and do not keep it all in one place.

This also applies to gadgets, electronics, and other items that may attract the attention of thieves, such as expensive cameras, smartphones, and laptops.

A person who is constantly taking pictures with their camera or smartphone (especially when attached to selfie sticks) can quickly make themselves look like tourists and potentially an easy target.


Remain Vigilant and Aware of Your Surroundings

Pickpockets target people who do not pay attention to their surroundings, do not look vigilant, or seem distracted, tired, or intoxicated.

Unfortunately, many tourists can be like that because they are placed in a new and unfamiliar environment, which puts them in a vulnerable position.

Regardless of where you are, try to stay alert and keep an eye on what is happening around you and who is near you.

Be extra careful when tired or sleepy. Pickpockets are known to target early or late trains and buses because many of the passengers are tired or dozing off and are not paying attention to what is happening around them.

That said, you do not have to be in a constant state of panic or fear and be constantly turning around frantically; instead, you must be alert and aware.

People not paying attention staring at their phones, or taking pictures are also sometimes targeted by snatchers on mopeds. They usually go for phones, cameras, and bags. They will speed up right past their victim, snatching anything they can get their hands on (sometimes right out of the victim’s hands).


Try to Look Confident and Be Assertive

Try to look like somebody who knows their way around and knows where they are going.

This is where doing some preliminary research into the places you are visiting and planning your stay in advance can also be very helpful.

Looking lost, confused, stressed out, or constantly staring at maps will make you stand out from the crowd, and it is something that seasoned pickpockets will quickly notice.

Pickpockets and scammers may often target people who look timid and lack confidence because they know they’ll be able to get much closer to their victim and can afford to be more persistent and aggressive.

Often scammers bank on the fact that tourists try to be nice and that most people, in general, do not want to come off as rude.

Do not be afraid to yell a firm “No!” or even completely ignore them while maintaining your walking pace.


Be Wary Around Strangers and in Crowded Areas

Remaining a little reserved and skeptical when strangers try to approach and start a conversation with you or offer unrequested help is recommended.

Not everybody is out to get you. However, a pickpocket may try to act the same way a good samaritan will.

A good question to ask yourself is, what if that same situation happened in your country? Will you be suspicious, and will it raise any red flags? Things are not very different in other countries.

Avoid commotions and be very cautious of flash mobs and people trying to get in your personal space, bumping into you, or pushing against you regardless of where you are.


Keep In Mind Where Pickpockets Are Hanging Around

Pickpockets often hang around busy and crowded places where bumping into somebody may not seem unusual and where people carrying valuables and cash can be found.

Some examples of common pickpocketing hotspots are:

  • Major stations, including crowded platforms, turnstiles, and escalators.
  • Near ATMs.
  • Public transportation.
  • On shopping streets, including busy or deserted side streets and crosswalks.
  • Shopping malls, retail stores, and dressing rooms (especially during holidays).
  • Open-air markets and flea markets.
  • Long queues.
  • Near museums, monuments, and other tourist attractions and sights.
  • In and around cafes, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Festivals, concerts, and carnivals.
  • Near beware of pickpockets signs
  • Hotel lobbies.
  • Major sports events.
  • Public toilets.
  • Public parks.
  • Beaches.

A lot of petty thefts happen on public transport. Pickpockets will often target people at turnstiles and escalators or near train doors and quickly hop off the train as the doors are closing, leaving the victim behind the doors.

The crowding and jostling on platforms and in cramped buses, trains, and subways provide plenty of opportunities for experienced thieves.

Train and metro lines going to and from airports are often worked by pickpockets because there are a lot of tourists on those lines, and they often carry lots of luggage which makes them an easy target.


Remember That Pickpockets Know How to Blend In

Pickpockets can be of any age, gender, and ethnicity. In fact, pickpockets can be young boys and girls.

Also, pickpockets may be very well-dressed and not look suspicious at all. Sometimes they can dress to look like tourists and even carry a suitcase of their own.

Some like to carry a large shopping bag or have a jacket hanging off their hand or shoulder, which is used to hide their stealing hand.

This is the long way of saying that tourists should be wary of everybody regardless of their looks.

Thieves also do not have any kind of schedule. They can look for opportunities any time of the day and work just as well during the night as they do during the day.


Be Aware of the Common Pickpocketing Techniques and Scams

Nothing beats being prepared.

There is a lot of helpful information online about the most common scams and pickpocketing techniques that thieves use. Understanding and being aware of them can prove invaluable when dealing with those situations in real life.

Some techniques are extremely simple, like bumping into you repeatedly or pushing against you.

Sometimes thieves will block your way when leaving or getting onto trains and metro cars.

And other times, they will box you in, preventing you from easily moving.

In most cases, remaining vigilant will allow you to quickly realize that something is wrong.

However, pickpockets often rely on distracting their victims, and there are many different ways they can achieve that.

A few examples of possible distractions that pickpockets are known to use:

  • They can spill something on you.
  • They can fall in front of you.
  • They may ask random questions or ask for help.
  • They may try to fist bump you, high-five you, reach out for a handshake, hug you, or even dance with you.
  • They may appear to drop something in front of you.
  • They may ask you to sign a petition or ask for directions using a large map in order to obscure your line of sight.
  • They may appear drunk or overly friendly in order to get close to you.
  • They may offer unrequested help and be very persistent.
  • They may start shouting at you.
  • They may try to make you lose your balance.
  • They may act distracted or act as if they bumped into you because somebody else is pushing against them.
  • They may start a fake fight.
  • They may bring a ring (or another small item) to you, insisting that it is yours and you have lost it.
  • They may act as undercover cops warning you about pickpockets in the area.

Those are just a few examples of the many techniques thieves can use to distract their victims while stealing their valuables.


Take Good Care of Your Belongings

Many people fall victim to pickpockets simply because they do not take good care of their belongings when in public.

When you are sitting down to rest, eat, or drink something, keep your items close to you and within your line of sight. Do not leave your valuables on cafe or restaurant tables where people can see them.

Keep your bag in your lap or next to you. Sometimes you can keep your bag on the floor between your feet, but even this is not completely safe. Ideally, you should maintain physical contact with your belongings. Consider looping the strap of your bag or backpack around your arm or leg (or even the chair’s leg) for extra safety.

The same applies to your bag, daypack, and coat. Often people leave their bag or coat hanging over the back of their chair, which provides an easy opportunity for a pickpocket to snoop around for valuables.

Also, do not set your valuables down next to you when using public transport. A thief can quickly create some kind of distraction and try to snatch them.


Take Further Steps to Protect Your Valuables

There are a lot of products out there that are intended to help us secure our valuables and make them a little harder to steal.

Consider using a money belt or a neck stash.

A money belt is a small, low-profile pouch with elastic straps that is carried underneath your clothing. A money belt is a great way to carry your most important documents and larger amounts of cash when necessary. Remember that you are not expected to use it out in public where people can see that you are carrying an undershirt money belt.

If you are carrying a backpack or a purse, consider securing the zippers with a clip, keyring, small lock, twist tie, or zip tie. Velcro straps are a good deterrent, too, because they tend to make a lot of noise.

Women are advised to use cross-body purses because they are more difficult to snatch.

Some areas are known for bag slashing so consider getting a slash-proof bag if necessary.

It is also recommended to keep your bag in front of yourself or to the side of your body, covering it with one hand when in public transit and other crowded areas.

Men should use a wallet that does not bulge out of their pockets. There are some really good low-profile wallets that are even designed to fit better in standard jeans and trousers.

Use a wallet that will not easily slide out of your pocket. It is often recommended to wrap two or three rubber bands around the wallet, making it harder to slide out of your pocket because the rubber bands will get stuck in the fabric.

Keep your wallet, cash, and other important items in your front pocket, and do not keep anything of value in your back pockets. Most pickpockets do not go for front pockets because it is harder to steal from them.

Keep your pockets buttoned and zipped. A longer shirt or jacket covering the pocket will make it even harder (but not impossible) for pickpockets to slide their fingers in the pocket.

Remember to cover important pockets with one hand if necessary.

Avoid patting your pockets because this will immediately show where you keep your valuables to an observant pickpocket.


Always Double-Check Before You Leave

Take a mental note to always look behind you. This applies to almost any place, such as hotel rooms and hotel lobbies, trains, metros, buses, taxis, public parks, cafes, bars, restaurants, and public restrooms.

For example, I always look behind me to check if I have forgotten something or if something has fallen out of my pockets, regardless of where I am.

It is not about whether or not the place seems safe. Getting into the habit of doing checks like those can prevent many unforeseen problems while traveling.


Plan What to Do if You Get Pickpocketed

It is recommended to plan ahead and prepare for what the repercussions might be if what you carry gets stolen.

There are some important questions that you have to consider, such as:

  • Do you have photocopies of your ID, driving license, or passport?
  • Do you have your phone numbers and other important information written down somewhere in case your phone gets stolen? (Do you have any means of contacting your bank, country’s embassy, or friends if you need help.)
  • Do you have backups of the information on your phone or computer? (Do not forget the photos on your camera as well.)
  • Do you have enough cash if your bank cards get stolen?
  • Do you know what to do if you get pickpocketed while traveling in a specific foreign country?

Being prepared can mitigate the potential losses of getting pickpocketed and even save your vacation from getting completely ruined.


Conclusion: Mastering the Art of Anti-Pickpocketing

🛑 Whoa, hit the brakes:

You’ve just absorbed 13 game-changing tips that could make you virtually “pickpocket-proof.” You’re not just someone who knows how to zip up their bag; you’re someone who understands the psychology and tactics of these stealthy criminals.

🛠️ Your Anti-Pickpocket Kit:

Review these tips before your next trip. Better yet, make it a ritual. Drill these habits into your daily life and transform them into second nature.

To cap it off: You’re not just “aware” anymore; you’re educated, informed, and ready to turn the tables on pickpockets. So go out, explore, and do it all with the peace of mind you deserve.

Until our next adventure, stay sharp, stay safe, and as always—thanks for being the best part of this knowledgeable community. 🌟

📢 Share Your Stories:

Escaped a pickpocket thanks to these tips? Or maybe you have additional advice from your own close calls? Reach out or comment below. Your experiences can arm others with the knowledge they need to stay safe.

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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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