If you’re making your way back to bars and restaurants after COVID-19, there’s something else to watch out for in bustling areas: having your phone or wallet swiped. With more and more people returning to their pre-pandemic routines, some opportunistic criminals have taken advantage of the increase in foot traffic, targeting the valuables of unsuspecting and distracted customers in popular South Florida nightlife locations. If you are a victim of pickpocketing or any crime, don't hesitate to call the police. Your information may be the key to making an arrest and stopping future crimes.
Thankfully, protecting yourself from a pickpocket thieves is not as difficult as you would think; just a few precautions can be enough to give you peace of mind and confidence while enjoying your time out.
YouTube video of pickpocket thieves caught on camera.
Common Misconceptions about Pickpockets
- An experienced pickpocket is not necessarily the sleazy person lurking in dark doorways we expect to see. He or she appears as an average person in both appearance and manner. Because of their chosen "line of work," they spend a great deal of time studying how to blend into a crowd, therefore eliminating the possibility of detection before they can get away.
- Pickpockets don’t have a regular schedule; they operate just as well at night as they do during the day. They operate in crowds just as easily as "accidentally" bumping into an unsuspecting victim alone on a sidewalk. In fact, about the only "known" fact about pickpockets is that they generally focus on the public during times when they may be carrying more money than usual, such as during the holidays, at store sales, at fairs or carnivals, at casinos, or near bank entrances, etc.
- Many times, pickpockets work alone; however, there are also teams of two or three, which sometimes will involve a female accomplice. The first team member removes the valuables from the unsuspecting victim’s pockets. He then passes them on to the next member who disappears quickly from the area. When a female member is used in this “team effort,” her role is generally to engage the victim in conversation to distract his or her attention.
- Contrary to what most of us believe, experienced pickpockets do not put their hands all the way into your pocket to steal your belongings. The expert pickpocket reaches into the top of the pocket, takes up a pleat in the lining, and continually folds the lining up until the bottom of the pocket (holding your valuables) reaches the top of the pocket. This entire act only takes a second or two.
What can you do to protect yourself? The best protection is to eliminate the opportunity of becoming a victim in the first place.
Tips if you have pockets
- The target areas are back trouser pockets, and suitcoat and sports jacket pockets, located both inside and out. A pickpocket generally avoids front trouser pockets, and especially buttoned or zippered pockets.
- If you have to carry your wallet in an unbuttoned jacket, coat or pants pocket, be sure it holds only what you can afford to lose. Keep large sums of money, credit cards, IDs, in your front pocket or any buttoned or zippered pocket. Some people even place a rubber band around their wallet, because the rubber band creates friction and rubs against the fabric of your pocket if someone is attempting to remove it without your knowledge. The best place for keys is on a chain attached to your clothing.
- Never pat your pocket to see if your wallet is there; this lets a criminal know the exact location of your valuables.
- Larger-size “pocket secretaries” are particularly inviting to pickpockets, and relatively easy to steal.
Tips for purses and wallets
- Do not carry your wallet in your purse. Conceal it in a buttoned or zippered pocket where it doesn’t show a bulge.
- Use a purse that is difficult to open. A purse with a zipper or snaps is best.
- If you are carrying a shoulder bag, place the strap(s) diagonally across your body, as opposed to carrying it on one shoulder. This keeps the purse in front of you, instead of at your side or behind you, which sometimes happens with purses with long straps. If you are carrying a hand bag, then make sure to hold it close to the front of your body, instead of holding it on your wrist or loosely in your hand.
- Never leave your purse unattended on a bar or store counter or in a grocery shopping cart.
Tips for cell phones
Cell phones keep getting more and more expensive and there is a market for stolen Apple and Android phones. Even less expensive phone models are attractive targets since someone is always willing to buy a phone at less-than-retail prices. Our mobile phones store much of our personal information including banking and credit card data. Remember the tips below to prevent your phone from being stolen. Additionally besides "Find My iPhone" or "Find My Google" there are new "Anti-Theft" apps that one can install to help stop a thief in their tracks or at least help the authorities pinpoint a phone's location, similar to LoJack for a vehicle; although they are not 100% fool-proof.
- Never leave your cell phone unattended
- Never put your phone in a back pocket or an unzippered purse
- Be sure to ALWAYS lock your phone with a passcode or a pass-phrase
- Tying a rubber band around a phone is also an easy neat way of stopping a pickpocket. The friction of the rubber band on the fabric will usually be just enough to alert you of a pickpocket thief's attempt to remove your phone
- Do not keep your cash, credit cards or IDs in the same pocket as your phone. Keeping these separate will save you an added headache later if you are the victim of a theft
- Install an "Anti-Theft" app if possible
Tips for Travelers
No one ever expects to have their vacation or business trip interrupted by a criminal act, but there are additional precautions that you can take to help ensure a safe, enjoyable trip:
- Pack a photocopy of your airline tickets, passport, credit cards and any other documents that would be impossible or inconvenient to replace if stolen.
- Keep a list, separate from your wallet, of contact numbers to report lost credit cards.
- Don’t wander into risky areas alone or at night, and try to avoid buses that are "standing room only."
- It’s always a good idea to carry your valuables in a money belt and leave your expensive jewelry at home.
STAY INFORMED! TOGETHER WE ARE BETTER!!!
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