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Look Alive: Tips to Outsmart Pick-Pockets When Traveling

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Sculpture in Florence

Okay, first off, I know you probably didn't look at this statue from the center of Florence and think, "Oh, this is an article about pick-pocketing?" I didn't really have a better cover picture for this blog post. So I was thought maybe after reading this post, you would see yourself as the man in "armour," and the pick-pockets would be the severed head, though obviously in a much less aggressive sense.  

Anyway, I made it almost two months without getting pick-pocketed. And honestly, I’m proud of myself. Although I love being organized — so much so that I will clean my room at 3 a.m. when the thought of mess is literally keeping me awake — I also misplace things like it’s my job. That’s why I’m not too surprised that someone swiped my coin purse; I’m a little impressed that they were able to do so with me having absolutely no clue. Don't get me wrong — getting pick-pocketed can be nightmarish, but luckily I didn’t lose anything too serious like my passport, just some euros and my driver's license.

Here are some things I learned from my experience in Florence:

More tourists=more pick-pockets 

Strength in numbers does not apply to pick-pockets. Being in a stunning area on a beautiful day with lots of friendly looking tourists can definitely give you a false sense of security. Case in point, I was robbed in plain daylight, in the center of Florence. Pick-pockets blend right in, and are very sneaky. In popular areas, you should be extra alert and always have a hand on your valuables.  

Leave your valuables in the safest spot

I know that cameras, credit cards, and sunglasses are pretty essential when touring a new place. However, if you don't absolutely need a valuable, decide where the safest spot is and store it there. Sometimes, the safest spot is in your housing location. Sometimes, it's with you. When I visited Florence, I stayed with some friends from UMass. Luckily, on the day I got pick-pocketed, I knew I would not be needing my passport, and left it in their apartment, where I knew it would be safe.

Avoid carrying a bag unless you absolutely need it

Again, I totally understand that sometimes a purse completes an outfit. Or sometimes, you have an entire day planned and need to carry your belongings along with you. However, if you can, try to avoid carrying bags the majority of the time. You are basically carrying a target for pick-pockets around with you. Plus, they can be bulky and harder to keep an eye on all the time. Opt for a traveler's belt or necklace that can be worn under clothing. Not only does this ensure you always feel your valuables, it is also much less accessible for thieves.

Invest in a bag with zipper locks and uncuttable straps

If you absolutely need to carry a bag and want to be extra cautious, consider investing in a traveler's bag. These bags typically have safeguards against pick-pockets like complicated pocket openings and thick straps that can not be cut with scissors.  Amazon has some really good options.

Divide up valuables within your bag

Finally, it doesn't hurt to split up your valuables in case you are the victim of a snatch-and-grab. Not sure if that is a real term, but this is when a pick-pocket grabs the first accessible thing in your bag. For me, it was my coin purse. Thankfully, my credit cards were in my wallet, so while I lost some money, I did not lose all payment methods. Keep some cash separate from your wallet, so that if you do lose one, you have a chance of saving the other.

As kind as most people are, there are always those who you must be wary of. Since there is no way of knowing who they are, you should always try to be as cautious as possible. It definitely is better to be safe than sorry!

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