The Art of Pick Pocketing: Study Abroad Edition

15 Oct

Although studying abroad is a culturally enriching, fun experience, some situations can

Pick pocketers come in all shapes and sizes.

cause study abroad to lose its luster. It is important that you take some necessary precaution before and while abroad to ensure that you return home with all of your belongings.

I can not tell you how well my university drilled into my brain the idea that I could be pick pocketed. At the time, I thought it was a little obsessive, and that pick pocketing only happened to people who were careless. I was wrong. Pick pocketing is an art. These people are so creative and smart about how they pick pocket that you would think they went to school for it.

Spot a Pick Pocketer

Most of the time there is no “badge of honor” or distinct physical feature that sticks out about pick pocketers. Don’t assume that a child or an elderly person would not pick pocket you.

Some pick pocketers work in groups. They’ll put on an entire act. First, they’ll drop a bag of groceries in front of you and apologize. While you’re help them gather their things, another pick pocketer is behind you stealing your belongings. Keep an eye out for people lurking on public transportation. You may notice that they never get off the metro, or get off and on the same metro line several times. They may be watching you and your belongings intently, or they may be in groups, but just standing apart from each other.

Pick pocketers have no shame. I’ve seen and heard of pick pocketers going right up to someone and putting their hand in someone else’s pocket. It’s actually kind of funny to see the person being pick pocketed’s reaction. The person being pick pocketed usually calls them out on it, and then the pick pocketer responds by shrugging. Ridiculous.

What can you do?

It is your job to keep your belongings close. I suggest that girls keep their hands on the fold/zipper of their purses, and that guys, if you are wearing a backpack, make sure to pack your most important belongings closest to your body. Public transportation, such as the metro and bus, are prime pick pocketing locations. Wear your backpack in front of you on the metro. It may sound silly, but you’ll notice that most people, including locals, do that as well. Regardless of where your backpack/bag is, make sure your money is hidden in a safe place, not in an outside compartment, easily accessible to anyone nearby. Some people  carry two wallets with them, a fake one with no money in it, and then there real one. That way, when a pick pocketer reaches in your bag, your easily located, fake wallet will be the first one they take. Never anything of value, in your back pocket.

I am not trying to scare you, I am just trying to get you to think cautiously about your belongings. Not many students in my program were pick pocketed, and I think this has to do with our pre-abroad preparation. Before going abroad, think about the type of bag you want to carry, and where you’re going to put your passport, money and IDs. If you want to be extra cautious, you can purchase a locks. Locks are sometimes useful in shared hostel rooms when there is no place to put your things. When you arrive abroad, you will be able to get a feel for what feels safe, and what doesn’t. In bigger cities, pick pocketing is more frequent.


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