Losing your wallet or important documents will quickly sour any vacation or travel plans. Add the complications of international travel and a language barrier, and you will be facing a dire situation. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself and your belongings when you are in unfamiliar places. However, the best advice is to use common sense and learn how to prevent it in the first place. Here are a few tricks to protect yourself from scammers and pickpockets. Thinking ahead can save you a lot of hassle and headaches.
Don’t Stand Out to Scammers and Pickpockets
Identity theft is the last thing anyone wants to deal with on vacation. However, the truth is that anyone, anywhere, can become a victim of pickpocketing. There is no defining profile, age, or limit to the ingenuity of how scammers separate people from their valuables. It is also common for them to work in teams and distract their unknowing prey.
Your best defense is to not draw their attention in the first place. People wearing expensive jewelry, electronics, and designer labels tell pickpockets that they have money. Avoid wearing bright colors or standing out in large crowds, especially in transportation hubs and tourists spots. Carrying maps and showing large amounts of cash are great ways to become the next mark. Instead, think of how to blend in and act like a local. Even if you get lost, continue on confidently as if you know where you are. Find a discreet place to get your bearings and not stand out like a sore thumb.
Travel Light Through Airports and Stations
Toting around large amounts of luggage and bags is another way to attract the wrong kind of attention. If you are carrying several bags, using a map, or wearing a large jacket, someone can easily snatch things without you noticing. That’s why you should travel light, secure your most important belongings, and keep them in your field of vision at all times.
Make sure your bags are not hanging loosely open, and place the most valuable things in a zippered pocket. Slashing and snatching purse straps is one of the most common and profitable grabs for scammers and pickpockets. I prefer to store my documents in the hotel safe and separate my cash into different places, just in case. Even if you do become an unfortunate victim, at least you will not have lost everything due to a careless mistake.
Stay Aware of your Surroundings
This piece of advice is simply to use common sense. Always stay aware of your surroundings and watch out for suspicious behavior. Be wary of anyone who approaches you unless it is law enforcement. Surveys, fundraisers, maps, and clipboards are all common props scammers use in ruses. People expect bumping and pushing in crowded places, giving pickpockets the perfect opportunity. Thieves are known to operate around major metro stations, popular attractions, and ATMs, so be alert as you pass through these places.
Keep your belongings in front of you, and your valuables in the most inaccessible place. There are tons of travel accessories and clothing available with specially designed pockets to protect you from scammers and pickpockets. Most importantly, don’t carry anything that you aren’t prepared to lose.
Back-up your Identification and Documents
This last note is probably the simplest and most overlooked precaution. Before you leave, take a few minutes to scan your documents and upload them to a website like Dropbox or Google Drive. You can also add your itinerary and airline information so all your critical information is available in one place.
In the event something does happen, you will have your passport, driver’s license, insurance cards, and prescriptions available instantly. This will make things move faster if you do need to contact the police or embassy. You can also make photocopies to carry with you.
Being a traveler in an unfamiliar place means you are more vulnerable. With a few precautions and common sense, you can protect yourself from scammers and pickpockets. Take the time to prepare for all eventualities and stay alert. Theft will always be a concern for travelers, but the extra effort can decrease the odds of becoming the next mark and keep you safe.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.