Do you know what a pickpocket looks like? Where they hang out? Could you find one in a crowd?
Probably not. Don’t look for an unkempt, greasy haired loser. Or a strung out, half-high drug addict.
No way. These guys are professionals. It’s their job to fit in. And blending is their superpower.
In fact if you see a sign alerting you to “beware of pickpockets,” there’s probably at least one or two nearby.
Why? Because pickpockets aren’t what you think.
Oh, and usually when people see a pickpocket sign they immediately feel for their wallet giving away it’s “hidden” location.
So, where should you keep your valuables when traveling? Is it possible to foil these professional purloiners? And what is the best way to avoid getting targeted?
I’m so glad you asked.
Being from Central Florida we have a certain affinity for magic. In my family’s case it is the kind that entertains and we are frequent visitors to the infamous Daytona Magic Shop. But make no mistake, what happens when a pocket snatcher relieves you of your personal possessions is more about sensory overload than simple sleight of hand.
To see it in action, you should watch this video with the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins. You won’t believe your eyes as he relieves audience members of all manner of personal possessions in open view.
I should probably mention that in preparation for this column, I also consulted many law enforcement sites from the U.S. My favorite resource was a Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department post which further explained how these thieves operate.
Unfortunately there is no single warning sign to look out for, they explain, “he (or she!) appears as an average person in both appearance and manner.”
Well that’s helpful.
However, there is some hope. One thing most security and loss prevention sites can agree on is that “protecting yourself from a pickpocket or other thief is not as difficult as you would think; just a few thoughtful precautions can be enough to give you peace of mind and confidence in going about your day.”
I’m not sure I agree with the simpleness, but I found many ingenious items online, boasting high success rates.
It really just depends on how far you’re willing to go.
Strap it on
One category of item that can detract attack are the accessories. At LuggagePros I found the Eagle Creek Undercover Leg Stash and a WristSafe 150 wrist wallet by PacSafe. Both models can be worn discreetly under your apparel and are difficult for a predator to detect or access. The only problem may be accessing the items yourself.
Some people swear by the current line-up of money belts. One friend was threatened in Sao Paulo but only gave up a few coins because his paper money was safely folded into his belt. There’s really not a lot of room in the belt, but it’s enough to protect your funds for a night on the town.
I think many of these accessory items are very James Bondish. In fact the RFID Hidden Travel Pocket I tried out felt more like a shoulder gun harness than a security pouch. Only problem is the pocket works best when worn under a shirt or jacket. Not ideal for warm climates.
Recently there’s been a rush for apparel companies to join the security business.
I have a sleeper hoodie from Burton that is amazing. My favorite features are the mesh eye shield and the multiple zipper-protected interior pockets for stowing my important identification and other documents as well as my iPhone. I use this super-comfy jacket whenever I think I’ll be sleeping in a public area.
Another great outfit comes from Clothing Arts. They have the Pick Pocket Proof Pants for men and women. There are a variety of styles, but each one has multiple pockets with zippers and pocket-within-a-pocket storage. A men’s shirt is also available. Both are made with stain-resistant, highly-durable breathable materials that look great – even after being washed in a sink and stowed in the bottom of your backpack for a week.
But in order to keep your most valued possessions safe, you might want to go one layer deeper.
I couldn’t believe it until I saw it for myself, but I found a company in the process of developing a pair of men’s underwear that includes strategically placed security pockets.
I’m talking about Adventure Underwear. Made of 100% Australian merino wool, they “keep your goods warm in the cold and cool in the warm.” One key bonus is they can easily be hand washed and dry quickly. But the best features are “two specially designed, hidden pockets. The quick access pocket for a day in the city to store cash and credit cards and a larger second pocket is certified waterproof up to 200ft and can store passports, wallets, phones, cameras, etc.”
Currently there’s no female version of Adventure Underwear under development, but not to worry ladies. We found a boutique company, La Chaton Bottée, selling pickpocket panties on esty.com. You’ll probably have a hard time tucking in your passport, but there’s plenty of room in the discreet front pocket for some cash and a credit card.
Each of these options support the most important rules of travel, keep your identification and banking items on your person at all times. Because they can be worn under apparel or have storage within your apparel, you shouldn’t be targeted by thieves. In fact, in many cases these items have thwarted pickpockets in action.
And best of all, if you are confronted by a criminal and you’ve spread your cash to a variety of pockets, you’ll likely only have to surrender a small percentage of your funds.
Isn’t that worth keeping a few pennies in your panties?