Pickpocket Prevention: Protecting Your Wallet

Pickpockets can often be a concern when traveling, and some major cities have even started posting “beware of pickpockets” signs in heavily touristed areas because it’s such a frequent problem. You can safe-guard your cash and passport by using a money belt, but they aren’t always practical – or even necessary. Here are a few tips to help you keep your wallet in your own pocket.

Keep your wallet in your front pocket. Never wear it in your back pocket. In a crowded area, it’s much easier for someone to “bump” into you and remove your wallet without you noticing. If your wallet is too thick, take out the things you don’t need regularly and get a different wallet if necessary.

Use a chain wallet. PacSafe makes a wallet called the WalletSafe which keeps your wallet attached to your belt or belt loop by a low-profile chain which should stop any pickpocket dead in their tracks. The WalletSafe also has zippered pockets and is made of fabric, which is lighter than leather and better in humid climates, where leather can develop mold problems. However, if you don’t need the extra features, you can always go with a standard chain wallet instead.

– If a chain wallet isn’t appropriate because of the style of clothes you’ll be wearing (i.e. if you’re a business traveler), wrap a thick rubberband around your wallet and leave a couple twists in it. If someone does try to pull your wallet out, you’ll be much more likely to notice it.

– In a pinch, use a pin. If you discover that you’re in an area where pickpocketing is a known problem and you or someone in your party isn’t prepared, you can use a safety pin to seal a pocket shut. Obviously it’s not the most fashionable solution, but it will keep a stray hand from getting into your pocket and it only takes a few seconds to undo it when you need to get your wallet out.

– If you’re concerned about muggings or any situation where you might be forced to hand your wallet over, carry an extra “handover” wallet. Keep a small portion of your cash in that wallet (a believeable amount) as well as some expired credit cards (best if they are from accounts you have closed, so the number is no longer in use) or some of the fake credit cards that came with credit card offers in the mail. An old driver’s license is good as well if you have one, and maybe throw in a couple scraps of paper with phone numbers or other notes on them to make it seem real. The idea is to make the thief believe they got your wallet and run off with that.

Be aware of your surroundings and look like you know what’s coming. This advice extends far beyond the safety of your wallet. Criminals often prey on the unsuspecting, such as tourists who are distracted by the “sights” around them or who have had a few drinks and are caught up in conversation with one another. Be conscious of where you are and the people around you. If you feel you’re in a high risk area, look at each person (especially those who don’t stand out) for about a second: long enough for it to at least appear as if you are “registering” their face and might recognize them if you saw them later. If a thief knows you’ve seen them and might recognize them, they’ll be much less likely to try anything.