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  • Writer's pictureKatie Ugland

How to Avoid Being Scammed and Pickpocketed While Traveling

While traveling, it is key to take all precautions to stay safe. Unfortunately, not everyone has good intentions and you’ll want to be aware of this on your trip. Here is a list of ways to avoid being scammed and pickpocketed while traveling.


Never Accept a “Free” Gift from a Stranger

Often seen in bigger cities, you’ll see groups of people along the streets trying to put bracelets or thread on people’s wrists saying it’s a free gift. Once it’s on your arm, they will ask you for money.

Sometimes they come out of nowhere and start a friendly conversation with you. This is when it’s easier to fall for one of these scams. You might think someone is just trying to be nice, but the second they offer you a free gift, keep walking. They will be persistent, but don’t give in.

Avoid Anyone Asking You to Sign a Clipboard and Donate Money

People, often women, will try to walk up and ask you to sign a petition for a charity. They will then proceed to ask you for money to donate towards it. Unfortunately, the money often goes into their own pockets and never to the charity they claim to support. The first question they will ask you is if you speak English. The trick? Say no and keep walking!

Never Allow Someone to Help You at an ATM or Ticket Station

With this type of scam, a person will approach you offering to help you with the ATM. They will often say something along the lines of how they can help you avoid the bank fees or if it’s a ticket station, try to help you purchase the ticket. What they really want to do is skim your card with a card-skimmer and figure out your pin. Sometimes it’ll be a team of two people; one distracting you while the other skims your card without you seeing. In this situation, take your card and leave.

Keep an Eye Out When Exchanging Your Money

Sometimes the clerk will give you less money back than you’re supposed to get if you’re not watching closely. Always have a general idea of the exchange rate and what you’re supposed to get back in return. Count the money before you leave to ensure it’s all correct. In some cases, the clerk might even try to trick you by swapping a larger bill with a smaller bill after you hand it to them to exchange and then say you gave them the wrong amount. Make sure to be on your guard when exchanging your money!


Keep Your Belongings Close

You’ll never want to lay your belongings down for people to grab. If you sit down at a restaurant lay your bag between your feet or always have an arm around it. Either hanging your bag on your chair or on the table will increase your chances of getting pickpocketed.

Keep Your Most Valuable Items in a Hard to Reach Place

Your wallet, phone, passport, etc. should always be put in the hardest to reach part of your bag. Don’t put it in any outside pockets for people to have easy access to.

Padlock Your Bag

This might seem extreme but putting a lock on the bag you carry around with you will ensure no one can get into it. This is also great to do when you stow your bag on a train, bus, or airplane.

Never Leave Your Belongings in a Loose Pocket

Especially when you’re in a major city or taking public transportation, you won’t want to leave anything in an open pocket for people to reach for. Keep your valuables zipped up and always be aware when you’re around large crowds.

Hold Your Belongings Tight If a Stranger Approaches You

Unfortunately, you’ll always have to be cautious of any friendly person who approaches you. You don’t know their intentions and their nice persona could be an act. Take note of where all your belongings are on you and keep them close. Sometimes the friendly person approaching you is wanting to steal from you.

Wrapping it Up

With this new knowledge, you’ll be much more prepared to take on your next adventure. Always be aware of your surroundings and use these tips to stay extra safe!

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