Pickpockets, con artists, and thieves all love to use distraction techniques and social manipulation tricks to get their victims off-guard. Adept pickpockets will steal your wallet and be long gone before you even notice you’ve been targeted.
What tricks should you look out for when you’re in public and concerned about potential thieves? Let’s talk safety.
This one is extremely common. If you’re in a crowded place, like on a bus or on a busy sidewalk, odds are that you’ll bump into someone once or twice. This is normal, and most people just say “sorry” and leave it at that.
But if someone bumps into you, even if it seems innocent, check your pockets immediately. They might have used the interaction as a “cover” for a pickpocketing attempt.
Adept pickpockets can use what’s called a “dip,” a smooth maneuver where they slide two fingers into a pocket to steal a wallet, without making it look like they moved much at all. This is similar to a magician’s sleight of hand trick, and it’s easy to miss.
When you think someone is acting oddly, they could be using their behavior (like bumping into someone on the bus) as cover for their thievery.
When a stranger approaches you and asks for directions, put your hands in your pockets and hold your valuables. Often, these innocent-looking strangers could be acting as a distraction for their pickpocket friends.
This is especially obvious when they’re holding a map or some similar prop – they could be planning to use this item to block your line of sight to things like your cell phone or your jacket pocket.
That’s not to say you should be rude to anyone you meet on the street. However, when strangers approach you and ask for your attention, that could clue you in that you might be the target of a scam. Put your phone and wallet in your pockets and keep your hands on them so no one can slip them loose.
If an attractive-looking stranger approaches you and strikes up a conversation, you might be inclined to pay attention and enjoy the attention. However, if you’re in an unfamiliar area, this should be a red flag. Pickpocket teams often employ attractive decoys to touch your arm or otherwise distract you to cover for their thieving attempts.
When you feel like someone is being unusually friendly, it’s time to keep your hands on your valuables. If you’re worried about pickpockets, consider investing in a wallet chain so even the most adept thieves can’t make off with your billfold!