How to stay safe from pickpockets?

Some years ago, a friend [1] experienced a pickpocket while in Barcelona – a notorious pickpocket capital of the world, according to the Mail Online. To prepare for our trip to Barcelona in Spring 2017, I do my best that we will leave with positive impressions of Barcelona, particularly the magical La Sagrada Familia.

  1. Don’t underestimate pickpockets and rip-off artists [4].
  2. In crowded areas, wear our backpack [2] in front of us and avoid keeping valuables in our pockets.
  3. Place our bag on our lap or on the floor in front of us with the strap looped around our leg. Do not hang our bag from the chair.
  4. Timing matters e.g. the pickpocket snatches victim’s belongings and runs away with them just as the metro’s doors are about to close.
  5. Duck into a store or a cafe to get your bearings.
  6. Do not consult our guidebook or street map on main streets like La Rambla, squares like Placa Reial or exposed street corners.
  7. According to Mark Wolters, the police will not help the victims of pickpockets, instead they will laugh at the victims. However, in an unfortunate event of being picked-pocket, a police report is essential for insurance claim.
  8.  Avoid strangers approaching us on the streets (the fake petition trick, the drop scam [3], impromptu roadside games)
  9. Be careful of over-helpful ‘tourists’ or pickpockets masquerading as undercover ‘policemen’
  10. Be careful when paying bills at restaurants. “The waiter will take your cash, swap it with fake notes, and return to accuse you of paying with counterfeit money. “
  11. Avoid taking the L3 Metro line or Bus 24 and lingering in the Placa Catalunya, Placa Espania, Passeig de Gracia and Jaume I metro stations. For us, we will avoid Las Rambras too.

[1] She studied economics and German in Wellesley College. I became acquainted with her in Summer 2010. Later, she pursued a Master in Economics in our last alma mater as of 2017. Her experience includes working with Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan.

[2] On 20170317, I bought a new backpack for myself and Little Prince. I plan to put a cloth at the bottom (so the valuables will not be the most bottom in case of slashing)

[3] “Pickpockets often feign goodwill, coming after you and pretending to return a valuable item you’ve dropped. While you deny the item is yours, an accomplice uses the distraction to snatch your wallet. If you turn around and find a stranger with a wad of cash or some jewellery that’s not yours, walk away as fast as possible. The ‘drop’ scam works the other way round, too – you might see a person suddenly drop money or a bag on the ground, so you’d stop to help them while an accomplice steals your things.”

[4] They “work in groups with one bumping into you as a distraction while another picks your pocket from the other side or squirting white liquid like pigeon excrement on you and picking your pocket while pretending to help you clean up.”


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