Pickpocket Scams to look out for?

May 27th, 2007, 04:31 AM
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Pickpocket Scams to look out for?

I'm heading to Europe for the first time this summer. I've been to many large North American city and have NEVER worried about nor taken steps to avoid pickpocketers but maybe that's because I hadn't registered on Fodor's yet! I'm going to be more careful when I'm on the train and in train stations in Europe. I've heard about the scam whereby someone spills something on you and another takes something while your attention is on cleaning up. What are some of the other popular tricks that I should watch out for?
ValCanada is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 04:37 AM
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People sometimes stand in groups blocking the entrance to the door of a train. Happened to my husband in Naples. By the time he had pushed his way through, he was missing a wallet and the crowd had vanished off the train.

On a long escalator at the St. Michel metro station in Paris, a young man started passing my daughter and me on the left then stopped to ask to shake our hands. We shooed him off. His partner was standing close behind me giving my purse a feel. Didn't get anything. They both ran up the escalator.
Nikki is online now  
May 27th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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When we were at the Coliseum in Rome, some little girls tried to distract us by making kissing noises at us. One had a piece of paper over her hand so that we couldn't see her hand. Obviously she was going to go for a purse, but we yelled at the girls and chased them away.

I had read about this type of thing, so I knew what was going on.

In Barcelona at an outdoor restaurant, a nice young man whom we assumed was a waiter asked how the food was, and then disappeared with my sister's purse. He was so slick that she didn't know it was gone until I saw the guy hot-footing it away from the restaurant. Fortunately, she had given me her credit card and passport to put in my money belt.

I think if she had it to do again, she'd loop the purse strap around a chair leg.

I think you can go to Europe ten times and have no trouble, but especially in Italy and Barcelona, Spain, this kind of thievery happens from time to time. Though I've spent a great deal of time in Germany, I've never had any problem there.

I would never, ever let fears of pickpocketing or thievery of any kind stop me from going to Europe and enjoying my trip.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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I got pickpocketed on my 5th trip to Eurpoe. We were on a short train ride in Cinque Terre, the train was as packed as a Tokyo subway at rush hour. I guess I let my guard down as it seemed so bucolic there, sigh. Pickpockets love jammed-together crowds, they can strike and disappear; it's hard to chase them down when it is densely packed.
vivi is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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If you do a search you'll find very long threads that will answer your question.
Luisah is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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If anyone is heading off to Naples, there were some terrible things that happened this past Friday night. An American couple, with another couple, from Connecticut, one of the infamous "sciappatore" tried to get the man's expensive watch, broke his wrist, the man, 71 years old, then put up a fight, lost his balance, and smacked his head down on the pavement right there at the Piazza Municipio (the heart of tourist Naples) onto the -cerebral hemorrage-the police got to him first, saw he was bleeding from the eyes, hailed a taxi, got him to the hospital, where he is clinging to life, condition grave.

Also, on Friday an Italian tourist had his wrist broken when they got his wristwatch, plus 2,000 Euro, and a Dutch tourist and two other Americans were robbed as well.


I walked all over the city for 3 days this past September, and I did not have one problem-but I did not carry anything but a few Euro and ONE creditcard (I did not have my Rolex with me, (just use your cellphone if you need to have the time)-everything stayed in the safe in my hotel room.
Girlspytravel is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 08:51 AM
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Correction: The attack on the American man occurred at 2pm in the afternoon at the Piazza.
Girlspytravel is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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I live in Spokane, Washington, a quiet city with a fairly low crime rate. Violent crime against strangers is very rare here, yet last week a visitor from Canada, a lady of about 80 years old, if I remember correctly, was mugged in River Front Park. The thief grabbed her purse and knocked her down. She was severely injured.

My point is that this sort of thing can happen anywhere, though of course the advice about not wearing an expensive-looking watch or jewelry and not carrying large amounts of cash is excellent advice.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:01 AM
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But that's precisely the point the Italian newspapers are making Peg- it's NOT very rare in Naples, and it DOESN'T happen everywhere either-there is no other major city in Europe where the rate of "teppismo" (thuggery) is so stark, and it HAS been getting worse-there is a far right party in Northern Italy - Lega Nord- that wants to secede from the South-because the problems there are draining the resources of the North, and the North has to pay to keep the South afloat.

Although the city is trying very very hard, to its credit, to combat the violent image that they have, a city which is dangerous for tourists, when you have so many violent incidents IN A TWO DAY PERIOD against tourists, one has to conclude that the situation has not gotten noticeably better, despite the influx of law enforcement, and very severe penalties for scippatore.

It is not helped, as the article in La Repubblica points out, that when the emergency medical van showed up, right in front of the wife (her husband had already been taken away in a taxi to get him to the hospital pronto) a band of "teppisti" (thugs) showed up to throw stones at the windows of the ambulance, to try and injure the medical personel who were trying to help them, so they wouldn't be able to carry out their mission of assisting -which consisted of, at this point, taking the remaining Americans (the wife and the other couple) from the Piazza to the hospital.

That, you could not expect in your worst tourist nightmare.
Girlspytravel is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:03 AM
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My husband and I were having a stroll in the Gothic quarter in Barcelona when a couple of gypsy women started walking parallel to us on both sides and were trying to explain something. One of them was pregnant. She was holding a a little board and started writing down something, pointing to her tummy and talking at the same as if she was having a hard time explaining something to us. She was checking my husbands moneybelt underneath the board. Fortunately, my husband felt it and grabbed her very firmly on the neck. His wallet fell down, since the woman had already opened the moneybelt. I hit her with my travel guide. We were able to grab the wallet and they ran away. Stay away from gypsies.
Gina_07 is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:22 AM
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Were they able to save the man in Naples?

It almost seems like Naples is in the state of anarchy. This story scares me to death, since we are heading to Italy soon with our two children and will spend one night in Naples. I have always wanted to visit Naples but now I almost want to cancel the hotel reservation.
Gina_07 is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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He is in very grave condition. The paper puts it "in fin di vita" (at the end of life).

Where are you staying in Naples, Gina? I wouldn't be scared to death, (you're only there for a night!) And besides, there is a HUGE influx of law enforcement in Naples within the last 6 or 7 months. If you are in the touristy part, Posillipo or Chaia, I'm sure you'll be fine-just take the precautions I and others have outlined, and try not to worry too much! Like I said, I walked around the city for 3 days this past September, mostly on my own, and didn't have any problems.
Girlspytravel is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 10:48 AM
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We are staying at the Royal Continental Hotel on Via Partenope. It is supposed to be a safe area.

I think we should try not to look as tourists. We have dark hair, which may help not to stand out. As you said, no watch and jewelry is also a good idea.

We plan to visit the Archaeological Museum. Is it in a sage area? I always thought that walking in the streets would be the best way to see Naples. Are there any areas in Naples that we should absolutely avoid?

Gina_07 is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 11:06 AM
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You'll be allright there, Gina. (actually, that's exactly where the gentleman from Connecticut was attacked-it's at the Piazza Municipio, right by the Castle of the Egg (Castello dell'Ovo)

The Museum is on the Via Foria-(and I HIGHLY ADVISE you to walk down the Via Foria, say, after you go to the Museum, to one of the best seafood restaurants anywhere in the world -"A FIGLIA DO MARINARO" out on the sidewalk-under the white awnings-you can't miss it-I ate there three times, all Neapolitans there, they take credit cards, it's just across from the Botanical Gardens-so I'd say, from the museum down, say a 10 minute walk? dodging all manner of scooters on the sidewalk with you, of course, but SO worth it! Order their mussels that come in a kettle-I've never had any as good-but for pizza lovers, this is also the place to go-house-made desserts-panna cotta is divine, everything else is too-you have to take a number on the weekends to get a table, it's so crowded-open for lunch AND dinner.

After dark, just grab a cab there on the street to go back to your hotel-believe me, you will love this place, simply for people watching, and being in with a totally Neapolitan crowd-and the Museum also-it's fascinating! (p.s. "cozze" (mussels) in Italian are not to be missed!)
Girlspytravel is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 11:10 AM
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I have personally been the victim of 3 pickpocket attempts and have witnessed one more. 1) Odessa, Ukraine -- woman with a child starts walking right toward me from the side trying to make me step into a very short, seemingly cripple man (dwarf) coming up behind me. My wife realized what was happening, yelled, raised her hand in a fist to hit the dwarf -- mother and dwarf both skooted away. 2) Subway in Prague. With wife and another couple waiting for train. Door opens. People come off. Wife and friends go ahead of me. My path was suddenly blocked by several well dressed men (seemed like more) who seemed to come from nowhere. They tried to keep me off the train. Wife yelled. Other man reached his hand through the "crowd" and pulled me on. Door closed. I was missing a wallet with virtually nothing in it. 3) Subway in Paris. Crowded by two young girls. They tried to open my "fanny pack" (worn on the front). Did not get anything. 4) Witnessed this at subway station exit. Young oriental couple. They were about to exit the station through a turnstile. One thief got in front of them and then stopped, the other was behind them and kept walking forward and crowding them. When the confusion was over, they were missing possessions.

All of these involve more than one person plus a situation that suddenly becomes either crowded or confusing. I no longer wear anything that makes me an obvious target (like a fanny pack). I also often carry a collapsable walking stick with me and do not hesitate to use it to keep unwanted people from crowding in on me. If you feel your space is being invaded, it probably is -- along with your pockets.
bo_jack is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 11:11 AM
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The first thing you need to realize that the pickpockets know how to distract you to make "be aware", "be careful", and
"watch out for" type of strategy less effective. If you read accounts of people victimized by pickpockets, what you find are something like "I was ... careful ... but it happened so quickly..." Sure, you will encounter those who have yet been pickpocketed, but is it because of "being careful" or just so happened to be off the target during how many trips they have made? Additionally "using common sense" from where you live may not help you in different cities.

Searching this forum, you will also find that those who survived pickpockets mention something like " ... got pickpocketed, but luckily all our valuables were in my money belt, only lost metro tickets and changes ..."

During may travels to Europe, I have been targeted by pickpockets. I have lost no valuables. I have had someone skillfully probed inside of my daypack without me feeling anything. But since they weren't interested in stealing Rick Steves, umbrellas, Fodor forum printouts,etc they always left everything intact -- but left compartments unzipped as a calling card. Where were my valuables? The camera was strapped to my neck under my jacket and all my credit and debit cards as well as most of the cash were in my moneybelt.

Sure, you cannot keep everything in moneybelt, but you don't have to keep everything accessible to the pickpockets , either. If you need your debit card "A" to get cash, there is not reason to make your second debit card "B" also accessible. Similarly, if you have not plan to use credit card on particular day, why would you not keep them either in you hotel safe or in money belt? The latter location allows you to buy things if you have to.
greg is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 11:52 AM
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I was just writing a response, took a break and then read Greg's advice. He said just about everything I'd recommend.

I was targeted with the turnstile scam in Paris. Person in front backed into me, saying his ticket wouldn't work, I backed into person behind me. Never felt a thing except the natural "bump" into the person behind me. Didn't even know I was victimized until I got on the metro car and a passenger told me the backpack was unzipped. Guy in front of me looked perfectly normal.

Since the only thing IN the backpack had been a facial tissue pack, wipes, a small bottle of Motrin, and a cheap tourist map, none of which were taken, I wasn't actually robbed. I guess they didn't need my highlighted route from Point A to Point B.

Where was my money? Where was my credit card? My money--the little that I was carrying--was rubber-banded in a deep pocket. My credit card--the one I was carrying, for my spare was in the hotel safe--was in a teeny money belt.

My point (and Greg's) is that you have little control over whether someone will try to take advantage of you. You have a lot of control over lessening the amount of theft.

And one more point: not everyone whose ticket doesn't work is a thief, not everyone who stops to ask for directions is a thief, etc. "Prepared" and "paranoid" can remain separate adjectives!

Just don't let me get start on dynamic currency conversion, though. Now THAT's a con game!
josephina is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Sorry, I can't help myself! I guess these events are the reason for the expression, "See Naples and die."

I will deserve whatever brickbats you throw at me.
Pegontheroad is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 12:21 PM
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thanks a lot for the info. We will check the restaurant. I love seafood and we want some Neopolitan athmosphere. It seems that this place will offer both.

I think backpack is the wrong kind of bag to carry when you travel. It may be convenient but it is much easier to unzip and search.
Gina_07 is offline  
May 27th, 2007, 12:26 PM
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Ah...let's see...extra umbrella, sweater, rain jacket, bottle of water...

hmm, think I'll keep my backpack.
josephina is offline  

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