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Pickpocketed getting on train at Rapallo (Italian Riviera)

Pickpocketed getting on train at Rapallo (Italian Riviera)

Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:05 AM
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Pickpocketed getting on train at Rapallo (Italian Riviera)

My husband was pickpocketed on the train when we boarded in Rapallo and although we lost nothing, I think it is still worth sharing the experience to remind others to be alert to the presence of petty thieves.

We are born and bred New Yorkers and over the past 15 years we have spent many weeks traveling in Europe, using its trains, and we consider the Italian Riviera one of the most trustworthy places on earth.. This happened in January, when the Italian Riviera is not jampacked with tourists. In fact, being just about the only visible tourists among the locals may have been why we become a target. Plus, it just never crossed our minds that might be thieves targeting us there. It was a pretty, relaxing day!

When the southbound Inter'City train arrived at the station at Rapallo, the door to our car was not functioning. Neither were several other doors. We scrambled to find a functioning door to board the train. My husband, carrying a duffel shoulder bag, grabbed my rolling bag so we could move faster.

Once aboard, he started moving through the cars to get to our seats, still dragging my bag, while other departing passengers were desperately trying to find working doors where they could leave. Two young women got between me and my husband, who was awkwardly struggling with our bags while he searched for our seat numbers.

Something clicked in my head and I suddenly called out to my husband to "Just let these girls go by you." But my irritated husband basically ignored my request. I stared yelling louder to mind these girls behind him -- at which point the girls suddenly headed back in my direction, as if they'd just noticed they were in the wrong car.

I gave them lots of room to pass and then hurried to catch up with my husband -- except now the girls began yelling at me: "Signora! Signora! Signora!° When I glanced back, they were both pointing at the floor of the compartment. Lying there was what appeared to be my passport holder.

I rushed back to retrieve it and the girls just beamed and waved goodbye. When I picked it up, I realized it was not mine, but my husband's, with his passport still inside. I raced to catch up with him, and he was so shocked when I handed him his passport folder -- which had been jammed deep in his front pants pocket, underneath a fleece vest and jacket. Deeper in the same pocket was his Iphone and wallet. The bulky passport holder was such a tight fit into his front jeans pocket that there was simply no way it could have fallen out on its own. He never felt anything amiss.

We then both conducted a frantic search through all our pockets and belongings to find out if we had been robbed of anything. We hadn't. All that had happened is that one of the girls had gotten hold of his passport and thrown it on the floor of the train.

I still can't figure out why. Had they just done it just to insult us (especially me once I began raising a ruckus about their behavior)? Had they been hoping for a wallet and simply had no use for a passport, and figured they'd look less suspicious if they "helped" me find what they'd tossed away?

We were quite relieved, needless to say, that the upshot of the entire incident was not a spoiled vacation but a vivid reminder that we were not immune to getting robbed. I don't like saying those girls did us a favor but they certainly taught us a lesson.

We still love traveling in Europe! Hope this cautionary tale helps others.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:13 AM
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Pocket picking can be foiled when there is nothing in the pocket. With valuables under my clothes I've three attempts over the past several years failed.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I do travel a lot by train but so far had no problem fortunately.

Tell me how did these 2 girls look? Anything like roma / gypsy kinds (small, darker skin, etc??)?
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:27 AM
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As a small, darker woman, I'm insulted and even alarmed by your question!

I think racism is the wrong reaction to what is a problem for travelers the world over.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:30 AM
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So what did you learn? What is your advice to other travellers?

Here is what I learned. Jeans do not have 'deep' in them and how an iPhone and wallet could have been 'deeper' I fail to understand. Were they stacked one on top of the other from the top of the pocket to the bottom of the pocket? That is the only way one could be 'deeper' than another.

What is more likely is that all 3 items were at the same 'depth' more or less with the passport not being pushed as far into the pocket as the other 2 items. Am I right?

So the passport was probably in fact sticking out of the top of the pocket.

Maybe he jammed the passport in last and failed to push it all the way to the bottom of the pocket. MAYBE they picked it out of his pocket and MAYBE it actually fell out of his pocket. I'm not convinced either way. But let's suppose they did take it out. What did you learn?

I don't read anything that says you aren't going to do that again or what alternative you plan to use if you aren't going to do it again.

My advice, don't CRAM stuff into a pocket and especially into any pocket that doesn't have a zipper or velcro closure. Don't put items of value all into ONE pocket.

Posting a story without a solution is of little help to anyone if that was your intent in posting this very typical 'dumb tourist' story.

" I think it is still worth sharing the experience to remind others to be alert to the presence of petty thieves." Being aware that thiefs exist in ANY country is not news and suggesting people be aware that they exist is fine but what to DO about it is what is of real value.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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I assumed when I posted that people reading about our experience would be intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions about whether anything that I wrote might be useful to them.

But now I am beginning to wonder about this forum! I actually tried first to post this on the Tripadvisor Forum, but for some reason the software there kept giving me an error message.

So I came here -- and the responses have been pretty bizarre and even rather sad. Is this the normal tone of conversation here?

I recently had a vendor in Europe try to overcharge me for an item. Had I posted my experience in this forum would someone have asked me to tell them if the vendor looked Jewish? What about the man who tried to pick me up while my husband was elsewhere? Curious if he looked "darker skinned"?

It never occurred to me I needed to spell out to a group of adults "what to DO" after reading my story. People on this forum seriously can't figure that own on their own? I think if they can't, what they should DO is stay home.

I'll try again on TripAdvisor. Maybe travel message boards are all alike -- but I hope not!
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:09 AM
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Thanks, aw51. Even the most experienced of us can use regular reminders. The other thing we DO is not bother reading long posts from the usual suspects.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:26 AM
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Thanks for the reminder, aw51. The two reactions above are not typical of this board, I promise. I've been a member almost ten years.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:49 AM
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Don't pay attention to the braying.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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I was pickpocketed on the tram in Istanbul. We too are native NY'ers and we have been traveling independently for over 40 years AND I put my wallet in front pocket as a precaution. I also never put cash in my wallet at home and abroad and I have a xerox of my credit cards, passport, and health insurance just for instances like this.

What are you going to do? Stop traveling? Make one place sound worse than another? Blame one group?
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 11:45 AM
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This is a useful post:

The incident happened in a different place to one of the usual hotspots

It happened at a different time of year

It happened on a train, not a subway or bus

But it happened when your husband was stressed and inattentive. And that is a good lesson, though one that most of us can't do anything about. Travel is stressful. But you had his back, you were watching out for him, and it had a happy ending.

The other thing that is interesting here is that his US passport, which we obsess about a lot here, wasn't worth anything to the girls. Is this a general trend because of all the security changes that make it harder to alter a passport or were they just low-level, albeit skillful thieves? Interesting to keep an eye on this.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 12:14 PM
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Hi, AW51, and welcome to Fodors. Like any community, there are a few jerks, people who are rude or dismissive, people who seem to know it all, people who take delight (it seems) in the misforttunes of others. Schadenfreud, I suppose.

Fortunately, those people are far out-numbered by generous and knowledgeable people here.

Thanks for posting your experiences here, a timely warning.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 12:41 PM
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Thanks for the saner replies!

My husband and I have instituted two new travel "policies" since this experience:

My husband likes to carry his duffel over his shoulder precisely so he can walk with his hands in his front pockets to protect his important stuff. Ordinarily I manage my own luggage. His impulse to grab mine when he spotted a functioning door was a mistake. Our new policy is to remind each other to slow down, stay level headed, don't overreact to small confusions. That train was never leaving without us even if I had been the last person to board.

We don't always travel in winter time, so a "policy" of trying to hide all our valuables under our clothes is not going to work for us. My husband didn't need his passport in a "convenient" place while traveling by train in Italy. By the time we got off the train at Pisa, he had already buried it inside his duffel, and he walked through the train station carrying his duffel cross-body.

For the next few days, we couldn't help but notice how many tourists were walking around italy with dangling purses, stuff in their pockets, valuable looking items around their necks, whipping out smartphones and Ipads on lonely streets when they were lost or were totally oblivious to their surroundings while taking pictures. We also saw plenty of police, security guards, people looking out for each other and plenty of "small, darker skin" young women serving as ticket sellers, tour guides, sales women. We saw no reason to think there is any increased risk to us or other travelers of getting robbed in Italy. We just thought we had become so used to feeling so much more carefree in Europe than we do in America about our personal safety that we forgot that we might be attracting the attention of petty thieves for obviously looking like the visitors we are, so our valuables better be well-tucked away.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 01:02 PM
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I do not understand how a passport holder, iPhone and wallet could be in the front pocket of any pair of jeans. Nevertheless, we do not put anything in our pants pockets when travelling, would suggest wearing Scottevest or other, and keeping valuables on upper body or in money belt. Experienced travellers should know this, especially when lugging luggage where your hands are occupied. When seated, it is amazing what you notice on other passengers trying to get down the aisle. Our travel clothing have so many pockets, we can barely find things when we need them! Would suspect this pocket was bulging or otherwise visibly full.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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I rarely carry my passport unless I need to exchange money or something of that nature.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 12:51 AM
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We also rarely carry our passports, but traveling to an Italian hotel with all your stuff, you must!

My husband is thin, so that may be why he can get so much into is front jeans pocket or maybe it is just the brand he buys. Also, his wallet is specifically the kind that is shaped to fit into a front pocket,, and he keeps only cash in it (credit cards in his shirt pocket). Definitely the jeans pocket was visibly full, but we have yet to solve the problem of how to walk around in winter without purses or totes that can be snatched vs. having most of our pockets filled with guides, maps, kleenex, etc. so our pockets are always looking full. But a passport definitely doesn't belong in a pants pocket (it didn't fit in his shirt pocket when we tried.)

We really dislike Scottevests. Do you wear one? We do have other vests for warmth that have some upper pockets that I have found useful. We have found money belts to be quite problematic in warm weather.

As for what "experienced travelers" should know, I think my husband had learned the wrong lesson from being experienced. He had never had his pocket picked because he always kept his hand in his pocket protecting his valuables. I don't think the issue is "experienced" because a new traveler can avoid the problem without learning the hard way!
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 01:56 AM
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> As a small, darker woman, I'm insulted and even alarmed by your question!

Sorry I would have formed my question differently if I had been speaking to you face go face. Should I have asked just "gypsy roma/looking" without memtion of physical caracteristics so all the "smaller and dark skined" girls would not feel insulted?

> I think racism is the wrong reaction to what is a problem for travelers the world over.

I'm sorry you took my question that way. I did think your post interesting and thanked. I also did think some might mention racism because of my post but my question was a genuine one. I would be careful of gypsy looking people especially while travelling. Wouldn't people do that? So I asked if it was the case with the 2 girls you met. Would't it help other travellers to know that? When I said "smaller and darker skin", it's just part of how they often look at least to me, there are other things, aren't there, like face characteristics, hair-do? If I chose "wrong" words but you don't need to take it only a negative way. Still refuse to describe how they were?
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 02:15 AM
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aw51 we carry a small backpack, I think some call it a daypack and in that we carry most of the incidentals you mentioned. Nothing of any value goes in it. I have a small, lightweight cross body bag that I carry. It has several pockets so I put a small amount of cash in it plus a map, lipstick etc. a credit card goes in a button up pocket in the leg of my pants. We do like to spread everything around so that if something is stolen, at least the thief doesn't get everything. So far we've been lucky.

And without wanting to change your topic. Unless we are moving from one place to another we leave our passports in our room and carry a photocopy.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 03:33 AM
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But do you also photocopy your entry visa? And how would someone who looked at those two photocopies be convinced that one related to the other?

Only the full original passport is of any value if your identity is questioned, and your right to be in the country is challenged.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 04:30 AM
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I am often a solo traveller, and in situations like this, you are just a little bit more vulnerable. ... nobody to watch your back. All of us - however and where-ever we pack our valuables, may be targeted in the same way.I think one of your first comments most important: as far as possible, do not allow yourself to be rushed and distracted. Secondly: do not worry about good manners (shout when necessary!).
Thanks for posting.
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