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How to avoid Spanish pickpockets


How to avoid Spanish pickpockets

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Pickpockets. They’re as common in Spain as siestas and chorizo.

Fear not, this isn’t a tale of doom and gloom, but a forewarning about Spain’s notorious pickpockets. ​Yes, Europ​e has quite the reputation for the creative conman, but Spanish con artists are particularly good at what they do. Like, really, really good. If it wasn’t so despicable, it’d be impressive.

Here are our top tips for avoiding their fabulously light, wallet-removing fingers.

Hey! Look at my bling Mister Money Snatcher
Rule: Don’t advertise.

Gold and glitter is as appealing to a thief as a cool iPhone advert for regular money-spending muggles. If it doesn’t need to be on show, zip it up and lock away. Never leave your handbag open, don’t flash your bling and never ever put anything in your back pocket. Ask any thief, back pockets are like an unlocked car…with the keys in the ignition…and a full tank of petrol.  

Why are we getting so intimate on the underground?
Rule: Transport makes you a target

Public transport is busy, especially in the bigger Spanish cities and crowds make pickpocketing easy. Don’t dismiss that gentle graze, little push or gentle pat as unavoidable contact with a fellow passenger. If you’re being touched, you’re a potential target. Bear hug your belongings and try to secure some personal space.    

Hmm where’s my wallet?...Where’s my wallet?….WHERE’S MY WALLET!!!?
Rule: Stash it in the same place

Always put your belongings in the same place. For example, put your most important (and most used items) such as your wallet, phone and camera in the same pockets and/or compartments. That way you can execute a quick ‘touch n’ check’ routine at regular intervals; reducing those panic-riddled fumblings for things you thought you’d put in one pocket, but keep turning up in ridiculous places.  

Not today you thieving mongrel, not today!
Rule: Wrap it

Pickpocketing is 100% about opportunity and speed. Take away either (preferably both) and you’ll reduce the danger. When sitting down, wrap bag straps around your wrist or ankle. Thieves are on the look-out for this. One glimpse of your wrapped bag and the time required for a speedy snatch n’ grab multiplies. They’ll find another victim and you’ll get to keep your credit cards.

Oooh look! What’s that?...
Rule: Be aware of distractions

Con artists rarely work alone. Essentially they want to focus your attention elsewhere while they ‘rob you blind’. Hence where that expression comes from. Stay on guard from anyone or anything designed to distract you. Unfortunately these distractions usually take advantage of your own decency – cute children, animals, helpful (or helpless) locals, the elderly. Sad but true.

Say, what’s that ‘hiding’ across your stomach?
Rule: Ditch the money belt

Once upon a time these were a deterrent, but nowadays they’re a flashing neon light informing all muggers you’re carrying something of value. Never underestimate the talent of a pickpocket. Some of these guys can remove your watch with their pinkie, in less than 3 seconds, so a money belt is really not an obstacle.  

It’s all gone wrong. Now what?

So it’s happened. Little Oliver Twist (or Olivier El Twisto if you’re in Spain) has taken your treasures and is already spending large ​on the eBay. But that’s okay, because you did the following four things before you left NZ:

  1. You wrote down the phone number of your bank’s ‘lost or stolen cards oversees’ department.
  2. You photocopied your passport.
  3. You have travel insurance.
  4. You have a secondary credit card.

And you have all of this back at your hotel, safe.

What next?

Stop beating yourself up about it. Conmen are exceptionally good at what they do and they’ve been perfecting their trade for centuries. Even the Romans got mugged of their golden head wreaths.

Don’t dwell and enjoy the rest of your holiday!

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