Asking to be pickpocketed? 12 mistakes tourists make with their valuables abroad

Unfortunately, no matter where you go in the world, you risk losing your possessions to people adept at taking advantage of tourists – especially if you’re lost and confused trying to figure out where to go, or asleep on a night bus with your valuables on show.

There are precautions you can take though to ensure you’re not a walking target.

It’s a subject tackled in a new Quora post, and experienced travellers have shared some of the mistakes people regularly make…

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1. Putting anything of any value in your back pocket. The wallet-shaped bulge is so obvious.

2. Wearing a purse slung over your shoulder – cross-body or backpacks (worn on your front in busy areas) are much safer.

3. Not dressing like the locals do. In other words, standing out. Try to blend into your surroundings.

4. Looking lost when you exit a train station, bus station or airport – it’s a dead giveaway you’re a tourist. Act like you know exactly where you’re going, and if you don’t, walk with purpose and fake it. The worst thing you can do is immediately get a map or your smartphone out.

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5. Keeping your travel documents, passport, visas, money and cards all in the same place. If it’s taken, you’re screwed. Carry a copy of your passport in a separate place and/or scan and upload a copy of it to a Dropbox or email it to yourself. Carry a few extra passport photos with you in case you do need to get another passport while you’re away.

6. Not wearing a money belt. Buy a slim one (like a running belt) that you can wear under your clothes with emergency cash it in.

7. Wearing expensive-looking jewellery, or an expensive brand name emblazoned across your clothes. You might want to consider wearing cheaper jewellery when travelling, leave diamond rings at home and buy a fake if you still want to wear one.

Be extra careful in busy places (Thinkstock/PA)

8. Putting phones, ipads or handbags on a table outside. Even if it’s right in front of you, it’s too easy for someone to swipe. Put them in your lap or put the strap of your bag under the chair leg. If someone approaches your table trying to sell something (even inside) be careful they don’t put something down to cover your wallet or phone, like a magazine – it’s a technique used to swipe things from tables.

9. Using cash everywhere you go. Use credit cards as much as possible, it means you’re carrying less cash, getting cash out of your wallet less and most credit card companies will negate fraudulent charges if you dispute them. Use a credit card over a debit card because the money is much easier to recover if it’s used fraudulently.

10. Not being vigilant in crowds at tourist hotspots or on packed public transport. Thieves often use busy places to take advantage and sometimes work in teams to distract you or pass your valuables to each other. One distraction technique involves ‘accidentally’ spilling something on you or dropping something right in front of you.

Don’t leave valuables out on a table (Thinkstock/PA)

11. Posting a photo on social media that shows a valuable item, like an expensive watch, and your exact location. There are apparently people who now use Instagram to target high value items.

12. It sounds counterintuitive but don’t check your valuables in crowded places. If you pat down your pockets or jacket where you know they are, or your wrist or neck for your jewellery, you’re telling everyone else they’re there too. One person posting on Quora says some people purposely wait near signs that say, ‘Beware of pickpockets’, because tourists will instinctively check their valuables when they see these signs, indicating exactly where they’re hidden.

- Press Association

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