Pickpockets prey on human emotions to distract their victims. Their classic one-two approach is to attract us by appealing to our compassion, while a pickpocket partner sneaks up behind and robs us. Here’s what you need to know about pickpockets, if you want to avoid getting robbed.
What You Need to Know about Pickpockets
Two classic scams are a terrified, lost little girl, and an old lady who drops her shopping on the ground. When we bend down to help, we leave ourselves open and exposed. Smart tourists travel in pairs and groups and watch each others backs. Way to go. Way to travel!
Another popular trick is doing a street show of some or other kind. Human statues painted silver and standing motionless are not always doing it for tips. I am not saying people doing card tricks and buskers in London subways are necessarily dishonest, although I do know professional pickpockets gather in the crowds of onlookers. Smart tourists only put in their pockets what they can afford to lose. Anything else belongs in locked suitcases, or undergarment body wallets.
They may also try a confrontational approach by deliberately bumping into you in the street, accusing you of doing it, taking umbrage and threatening to call the police. Naturally you are horrified. You are in a strange town and your mind focuses on extricating yourself from the situation. You are relieved when the other party backs down and apologises for the misunderstanding. When you try to pay for your next purchase, your purse is missing. Smart tourists simply walk away and melt into the crowds. Pickpocketing is not something new!
Pickpockets are inventive people. They dress up like people we would least expect. ‘Priests’ and ‘nuns’ are not unknown, neither are businessmen in pinstripe suits with black umbrellas. When one of them shouts ‘pickpocket, I’ve been robbed’ we pat our pocket to make sure our wallet it is still there. Compassion kicks in, we drop our guard, and the person waiting knows which pocket to pick. Smart tourists expect to be pickpocketed – it happens to all of us. You don’t have to be an innocent victim as in the painting by Louise Moillon. Be vigilant and mindful of your surroundings. Find a hotel with a concierge to advise you.