Pickpocket Warning Signs – Be on the Lookout for these Tactics

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Ever reached for your wallet and it’s not there? Not a great feeling – panic, bewilderment and replaying the last few hours – who? how? when? where? Pickpockets are usually pretty professional at their illicit trade and deploy a variety of tactics to distract you while they remove your valuables. Here are a few warning signs that you might be a target for a pickpocket.


You are meandering about your day and you see a “Warning Pickpockets” sign. A lot of peoples immediate reaction is “oh, pickpockets around, I better check to make sure my wallet is in a good place and still there.” DON’T DO THIS. Thieves will hang around these signs and when you check your pocket, you are letting them know where you keep your valuables. A similar tactic is if someone yells that their is a pickpocket around (the person yelling is usually the thief or partners with the thief) and they are watching you check your valuables.


People are easily distracted and that’s why distraction is one of the most popular and diverse tactics used my pickpockets. The list of ways muggers distract their target’s is long and ever-growing, but here are a few widely used schemes to look out for:

  • A beautiful women or man makes eye contact and smiles are you on the street. As you are returning their gaze, a partner in crime is lifting your valuables.
  • Dropping coins on the ground (or anything that scatters) in front of you. Being the helpful chap you are, you bend down to help with pick up and as you bend down, your wallet gets snagged.
  • Handsome men giving away red roses — this scheme is two-fold, he could ask for money for the rose or be just using it as a distraction while someone else grabs your money or phone.
  • Criminal holds a map and asks you for help finding a spot, while you are looking a the map, his or her accomplice grabs your wallet.


  • omg, a fight, but is it real? It could be a setup to distract you while a crook sneaks up and robs you of your money.
  • It is not beneath thieves to employ children to help with the distraction method, so if a child comes up and puts a begging sign under your nose, be wary.
  • A friendly local notices that you spilled something on your shirt and offers you a napkin or towel to clean it up. As you are scrubbing away, someone is stealing your wallet — what’s even worse, is the same person stealing from you is probably who secretly spilled on you in the first place!


Being squished together on a train or bus is unpleasant in the first place, but also having to worry about losing your wallet to some sneaky vandal makes it all that much worse. Togetherness is a favorite for pickpockets, because they don’t need an excuse to be close to you. Watch out for –

  • Someone pressing against you or in your personal space
  • Someone who falls or drops something right at the end of an escalator. As the rest of the escalator riders get pushed back (and together) to avoid the fallen person, someone could be in back grabbing wallets
  • A group of people who get on a train or come somewhere together and then immediately split up – they could be plotting something!


The tricky pickpocket methods yields plenty of success, but something the criminals just go bold. Grabbing unattended money, wallets, purses and phones from tables as you sit sipping your coffee or tea has happened plenty of times. In SE Asia, a common robbing method is for a motorbike to pull up alongside you as you walk and cut the strap to your bag, grab it, and speed away. Try to always keep your bag on the shoulder opposite traffic.


The most popular spots for pickpockets are public transportation, museums, train stations, restaurants, bars, beaches, and store. If you keep an eye out and don’t let distractions heed all your attention when out and about, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Alternatively, you could get a money belt, which keeps your valuables under your clothes and close to your chest — only a very very skilled pickpocket could accomplish that robbery!


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