Anyone can be a victim of theft. No matter how careful you think you are, desirable items like your wallet can be gone in the blink of an eye. It can be difficult to keep your guard up while having fun, not to mention, most people are no match for a seasoned pickpocket.
Here are the best tips to help prevent your belongings from slipping into the wrong hands. And, if it does happen, there are additional tips for what to do.
Common criminal techniques
Learn these techniques that thieves deploy, especially when planning an international trip, to stay alert and quick on your feet while you’re away or in an unfamiliar environment.
Someone asks you to snap a photo of them on the beach, so you stand up and leave your bags behind you. You can probably calculate how that can be a recipe for theft. Instead, if someone asks for a photo, make sure you have a member of your party watching your belongings before you do so. If you’re alone, respectfully say no. They will probably leave you alone, and if not, say a family member or friend is arriving soon.
A moped, motorcycle, or bicyclist drives by and snatches a bag from your outstretched hand. Avoid it by storing purchased merchandise in a secure bag on your body before leaving any store.
The “here, let me help”
Someone will offer to help you with your bags when entering a hotel or similar lodging. Instead, say no and keep your belongings together in your car until a bellhop or hotel employee can assist you.
On an escalator or in a crowded corridor, two or three people known as stallers will block you from advancing while you get frustrated and try to move around them. Meanwhile, someone picks through your bags behind you. Avoid this trick by standing sideways on an escalator with your back toward the wall or by walking close to a wall in a corridor. This way, you can see all sides where your belongings are or you can easily stop and step off to the side if you feel uneasy.
It’s commonplace in Europe for children to be used as distractions in street performances, where one child will pick your pocket while another encourages you to dance with them. Instead, if you’re going to watch a street performance, keep a distance and sit down on a bench with a back.
Bump and lift
While you’re waiting in line at a store, someone walks by and bumps into you. You both exchange an “Oops, sorry” but you don’t realize until you arrive at the register that your wallet is gone. To protect yourself from this technique, keep your bag with your wallet close to you and any cards or cash stored away until you arrive at a register.
Slash and run
In more rural, rugged tourist areas of Europe and Asia, it’s not uncommon to hear about slash and run theft. If your backpack has front pockets, a thief can easily use a machete or pocketknife to rip open your bag, allowing the contents to spill out. And typically front pockets are the perfect size to hold your wallet and phone. Instead, invest in a metal mesh-lined bag to prevent the slashing and use bags without obvious front pockets.
Keep these tips in mind when you’re traveling near and far to protect your belongings. It’s far easier to prepare than to deal with the aftermath and panic that can ensue from losing your items.
Try not to stand out as a tourist, and have the proper gear that can deter a criminal. If they struggle to grab your things, they’ll likely stop immediately and move on to a different target.
– Use purses or bags with zippers and secure closures. Avoid open bags.
– Always use a crossbody strap or wrist strap on a wallet or purse.
– Invest in a backpack with metal mesh to prevent slashing.
– Have a cheap decoy wallet on hand with used gift cards and a few dollars that you can put in your back pocket to throw in the direction of someone harassing you.
– Use carabiners or safety pins to secure a zipper to your bag strap. This is an extra step a criminal won’t bother with since you will feel it.
– Try a fanny pack switched to the front of your body for small items. Make sure your buckle has duct tape or a sleeve wrapped around it so it’s not easy to unbuckle and run away with.
Here are techniques you can use to make yourself less of a target and stop a thief in their tracks.
– Use front pockets for your wallet, but never use back or side pockets to store your belongings in a crowded area.
– If you’re sitting, loop your bag strap around your leg and place it in your lap.
– Always use the buddy system in groups. Sit across from each other at restaurants or on public transportation to watch each other’s backs.
You tried your best, but it still happened. Don’t panic, because recovering from wallet theft is as easy as calling A.B.C.D (in that order).
The first step is to alert authorities about your stolen wallet. File an official police report so they can launch an investigation. Be detailed about where you were and when you think the theft happened, but review your steps before then, too. Disclosing this information helps the police look through potential parking lot and street camera footage to catch the thief. Even if you’re traveling far out of your state or country, alerting the authorities is a must.
Immediately freeze your debit cards through your bank’s app or by calling them directly. Tell them to stop any activity on the cards or checks so if the thief tries to withdraw cash or purchase anything, the cards will decline and any checks will bounce.
C: Credit companies
After calling the issuer of your debit cards and checks, call your credit card companies. Again, you can likely freeze your card through your app, but it’s still important to call the company directly to let them know you’d like replacements. Monitor your account for any suspicious purchases, and let the credit company know if any of those purchases weren’t made by you so that they can hopefully reimburse you.
An additional step you can take after alerting your credit companies is to set up fraud alerts with national credit bureaus, which can remain in place for 90 days. This fraud alert means that if they receive a new card or loan request in your name, they’ll call you first to ensure that it was you who made the request. You only need to contact one of the following bureaus since they will communicate with one another about the reports.
– Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
– Experian: 1-888-397-3742
– TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Lastly, call your local DMV and let them know about your stolen ID or driver’s license. This call ensures that your old ID isn’t scannable if it were to be used for a speeding ticket or at places like a bar.
Protect your identity and assets before and after the theft of your wallet. Remember to take a deep breath—this, unfortunately, happens all too often. Authorities, banks, credit companies, and DMVs are ready to help you!