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Tell Me The Truth -- Barcelona Pickpockets/Scams

Tell Me The Truth -- Barcelona Pickpockets/Scams

Old Jul 9th, 2013, 04:35 AM
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Wow, what a story. How do you become pickpockets magnets? We have spent nearly a year traveling in Europe over the past 18+ years in some of the great pickpocket capitols of the world - Madrid flea market, Rome - many times, Barcelona - 3 times, etc. and have never seen a pickpocket. Two exceptions in Rome was the lady with the fake baby. On the other hand probably have seen dozen of pickpocket but just didn't recognize them. How do you recognize a pickpocket? Or do you just assume that anyone standing around is a pickpocket or at least a potential pickpocket?
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 05:04 AM
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Barcelona is much worse than other tourist cities. Just 10 minutes observation on las Ramblas will show you this. The real villains are the police, they watch it every day and do nothing, they know those involved and let them do it, they are not interested in the queues of tourists reporting robberies every day.
If you watch it going on you can see how easy it would be to act against it, but the police are simply not interested - you are not from Barcelona and deserve no protection. The tourists still come, so no problem.
Any city whose authorities behave like this will suffer high levels of street robbery.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 09:44 AM
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fmpden --- I am assuming that your question is real and you're not asking out of sarcasm. IMO it's relatively easy to pick out the novice pickpockets (especially in Barcelona).

I think it's silly to say "don't look like a tourist." Everyone in Europe in the summer looks like a tourist. So do pickpockets (in Barcelona). We noticed that they would wear a "neck wallet" and meander. Most people walk with a purpose. Most tourists either keep eyes straight ahead and walk with the don't F*** with me attitude, some chat, but most have a purpose. The pickpockets dressed like tourists walked not looking "at" people but "for" people. They changed the people they followed. If you sit anywhere for about 5 minutes (or if you're waiting for a metro), you start picking them out.

And there are the really obvious ones. On one metro, two men got on and despite the entire train being empty, he stood right next to my mom by the rail. She casually walked away, and he did too, scanning the rest of the train car for someone else to sit next to. His friend stayed on our side of the train car.

So I agree with the poster Zippo-- just watch them. But the cops are frustrating--- they watch too and they know who will be pickpocketed next, yet they say nothing.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 09:49 AM
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One last thing--- I believe we were pickpocket magnets because we traveled with kids and elderly people (one of whom was mobility challenged). This was the entire purpose of my thread---I was concerned it would be an issue. After discussing the stories in this thread with my family, they became much more aware that things *could* happen.

As for the Florence incident --- those thieves/robbers were opportunists and low. They targeted an elderly lady trailing at the end of the pack who obviously couldn't defend herself. Plus they were easy to spot. Who walks around holding blank cardboard signs with eyes searching for people?
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 09:53 AM
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Carry your valuables/money in an inner travel pouch, clutch your purse very tightly, always be aware of surroundings, don't get too distracted talking to strangers and you should be fine! Be particularly careful when taking photos....
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 10:28 AM
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I was in Barcelona last May - I, maybe luckily, did not get scammed, targeted, pick pocketed etc but I also was very smart about it. I did not speak to any random people on the street nor kept any expensive belongings in a big bag behind me or in my pockets and sorry - I wouldn't think twice to give money to anyone there. Keep the large camera on your neck and don't walk so close to large groups of people that your not with. I used my small point and shoot everywhere and never had an issue. Never keep any of your belongings behind a chair - keep your eyes on them at all times.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 10:31 AM
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oh and NEVER carry your orginal passport... keep it in the hotel safe and make copies before traveling. keep those copies on you and just in case anything was to happen you will have no worries at the airport.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 02:01 PM
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Since this thread has surfaced I'll give my recent experience from 8 days in Barcelona.

Not a problem. No pickpocketing and no attempts at pickpocketing. Was not cheated by a taxi driver (we took a lot of taxis). I was on or near the Ramblas at least 4 times; afternoon and evening. In the train station, Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell and most of the sights Barcelona has to offer.

I was not overly cautious as I was too busy looking at the sights and the people or consulting the map or taking photos.

I don't think Barcelona is worse than other large cities.
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Old Sep 11th, 2013, 11:04 AM
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I too was approached by Arabic men.... "hola amigo"...., I went straight to protect my pocket and they snatched it out of my hand and run off. Apparently there are over 50 reported cases each day. By the time I went to a pay phone to cancel my phone there were £3000 worth of call charges. The law is not strong enough. Avoid Barcelona and go elsewhere. I am well travelled and the experience is enough to put me off ever going again.

You can't make a claim unless you have your EMEI number. The police have books and books of photos of kids who've been caught. I recognised the thief and he had been caught 190 times but still not in Jail! I felt like a nervous wreck the next day. Every knock and bump I thought I was being mugged. Tourists should avoid this place until the law changes and enjoy Barcelona from google images!!!
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Old Sep 11th, 2013, 11:05 AM
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Definitely the worst place for pickpockets in the WORLD
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Old Sep 21st, 2013, 10:57 PM
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I will be in Barcelona and Madrid for a 3 days each in late september, I am a 20 year old female and travelling alone. I know that as a solo traveller I will be targeted and will need to take lots of precautions- but I was curious as to whether pickpocketing is less common and frequent during the winter months?
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 02:36 AM
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Ellen, get real...solo travelers can actually be just as aware and smart as people who are with a bunch of others..in fact they are probably MORE aware than someone who is moseying along in a group.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 04:48 AM
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Firstly, may I preface this with my husband, daughter and myself are all extremely well traveled... My husband goes to Asia 4 -6 times each year; I to Europe 4 -6 times each year; my daughter has traveled extensively to Europe both with and without me (she is 21).
This past summer while attending school in Barcelona, my daughter was physically knocked down in public while on her iPhone. The phone was taken, and it turns out 14 of the 16 kids from her school had the same thing happen to them, even though they were aware & knew what to look out for. I was in Italy at the time and worried enough to make plans to get her (turns out I didn't go forward & she remained, but without a phone for the rest of her trip).
The problem with Spain right now is 2-fold:
1) The unemployment is horrifically high, so stealing is actually a 'source of income'.
2) Secondly, there are contraptions allowing the stolen phones to be dropped into, and money comes out - so the thieves get funds instantly. *I don't know if it is just for iPhones or all phones, but it is a major problem.
When you need to make a call, if in a cafe, club, etc... go to the ladies/mens room to use the phone & than put it away.
If outdoors, you are running a risk.
Remember: These aren't your normal everyday gypsies, etc... these are people without jobs for a long time & desperate: stealing is now their job, and they want to keep their job. So be very careful.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 09:12 AM
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What was unsettling tomus were the constant reminders to protect our belongings every time we left our hotel or were dining in a restaurant. Only had one attempt getting on the metro and stopped her cold, literally with her hand in my husband's pocket.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 09:45 AM
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Phone snatching ,especially from teenagers, has become a common crime even in our big North American city ( unemployment rate is 7 %!)
I have mentioned it before - t in seven times of visiting Barcelona we never had a problem. I take metro and buses , walk everywhere, and use my iPad in coffee shops., ( not IPhone though).
I take care of my person and belonging exactly the same way in Paris, Amsterdam,
Madrid or New York.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 11:20 AM
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I had a similar questions about Paris. I had heard a lot of bad things about pickpockets, etc. I read both sides of the argument, much like this post. I am happy to say that while I was approached, I never felt threatened in any way. I was careful and took the regular precautions. I got lots of good advice and knew what to expect (the ring scam). Paris is a wonderful city and I would have missed a great adventure if I hadn't gone. I think that there is a balance between being cautious and just being over-reactive to the stories. Then there is stupidity such as leaving your knapsack hanging open while you take photos or leaving your purse dangling on the back of the chair behind you and my favorite sight...the man who had his wallet in his back pocket with bills hanging out of it. Caution and good common sense (and a bit of luck)...I hope you go and have a super time!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 07:46 PM
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"Definitely the worst place for pickpockets in the WORLD" Yes, it tops the list, but it makes the list because of all of those who are distracted, walking around in an apparent daze, being victimized by pros who know an easy mark, tourist, foreign or domestic!

The top 4: The only change from 2010 was that Prague was No.4 and Paris No.5.

1. Barcelona: Worst around the famous Las Ramblas pedestrian area, right, and all Metro stations.

2. Rome: Whose pickpockets hang out at attractions like the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican.

3. Paris: Landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and metro system are notorious.

4. Madrid: Museums are major danger zones because tourists are often off guard.


"The problem with Spain right now is 2-fold:" No, the problem with Spain right now is not unemployed Spaniards looking to make a quick Euro, but the ones who like to prey on those not paying attention to what they are doing. As you stated: "my daughter was physically knocked down in public while on her iPhone". It can happen anywhere, even at home. iPhones are worth a lot of money in some markets.

If you could come up with something specific showing that native Spaniards are the problem, I might begin to believe you, but being well traveled does not mean being familiar with a culture and it’s norms.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 05:01 AM
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I recently saw a programme on Channel 4 UK about Barcelona pickpockets. They claimed the majority of pickpockets in that city were Romanian nationals. Towards the end of the programme they said that some of the pickpockets had plans to head to London due to the rich pickings to be had there amongst the tourist crowds. However it was pointed out that the laws in England relating to this sort of criminal activity are much stricter and offenders are often jailed there. In Spain it seems they are usually released back onto the street which I find pretty incredible.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 06:23 AM
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Thieving from tourists is a competetive sport in Barcelona. If you simply stand on the Ramblas for 10 mins you will see scams played out in front of you. The mystery is why the police get away with ignoring it. If I can see it so can they.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 11:47 PM
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ellen_burne asked: "I was curious as to whether pickpocketing is less common and frequent during the winter months?"

That probably depends on if you go to a place that is cold or hot during winter.

In hot weather people wear as little as possible and it can be easy to see a moneybelt or neckpouch through a thin blouse/skirt.

If it's cold people will wear more clothes and have more places to hide their valuables. It's more difficult for the thief to reach something that is hidden by three or four layers of clothing.

Of course, there will always be people who put their wallets in back pockets or hang their purses on the back of their chairs (like kelsey22 mentioned), so there will be plenty of targets for pickpockets even in the middle of winter.
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