What is a perfect pickpocket victim?
Let’s look at the anatomy of a pickpocket victim. I’m thinking of a couple I saw in Barcelona not too long ago. They had the word “gull” plastered all over them, a perfect lesson in what not to do. They were affluent-looking: the woman wore a slinky black dress, a big blonde wig, and garish diamonds from here to there, real or not. Her watch was thin, gold, and diamond encrusted. She carried a designer purse and a recognizably expensive shopping bag. The man wore a floppy black suit, trendy black t-shirt, and a gold Rolex. He carried a large camera bag with a Sony label on it. They stood utterly bewildered, map in hand, staring at street signs. I had an urge to educate them, but what could they change right then and there? I’d only manage to scare them. Bob and I want people to enjoy their travels. We mean to raise awareness, not paranoia.
If this couple were the ideal paradigm of oblivion, they’d plop down at a sidewalk café. She’d sling her purse (unzipped) over the back of the chair by its delicate strap and he’d put his camera bag on the ground beside or under his chair. He would not put his foot through the strap. He’d hang his jacket on the back of his chair. Is anything in its pockets? They’d both relax and watch the people parade, as they should. When the bill arrived, he’d leave his thick wallet on the table in front of him while he waited for change. Eventually he’d realize there would be no change, because he hadn’t counted on a cover charge, a charge for bread, a charge for moist, scented, plastic-wrapped napkins, a built-in tip, and water that cost more than wine.
How many mistakes did they make?
“Tourists are more vulnerable than anyone else on the streets,” Bob says. “And not only because they often carry more money than others. Their eyes are everywhere: on the fine architecture, the uneven pavement, shop windows, the map in their hands, unfamiliar traffic patterns, unpronounceable street signs. They don’t know the customs of the locals and don’t recognize the local troublemakers.
“Con artists and thieves are drawn to tourists for the same reasons. Tourists are unsuspecting and vulnerable.”
Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter Two (part-f): Research Before You Go