If you have been in a major mall or shopping center during the last few days, you know that even during these tough economic times, there are still millions and millions of Americans crowding these places looking for bargains.
While Christmas shopping in packed shopping malls might be fun and exciting, it also provides ideal surroundings for pickpockets.
Here are a few fundamental things you can do, according the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, to help safeguard yourself from the dreaded pickpocket.
First of all, let’s clear up some widespread misconceptions about pickpockets: An experienced pickpocket is not necessarily the decrepit person hiding in dark alleys. He or she may appear as a typical person in both appearance and character. Because of their chosen “line of work,” they may spend a large amount of time studying how to mingle in a crowd. Pickpockets don’t have a typical schedule -- they may operate day and night. They operate in crowds just as easily as “accidentally” bumping into an innocent victim alone on a sidewalk. In general, pickpockets tend to operate in places where people may be carrying more money than usual.
A Quick Security Tip: Locations that pickpockets like may include store sales, fairs, carnivals, casinos and near bank entrances. Many times, pickpockets work alone -- however -- there are also teams of two or three, which will sometimes include a female accomplice. A common scenario may be where the first team member removes the valuables from the unsuspecting victim’s pockets. He then passes them on to the next member who disappears quickly from the area. When a female member is used in the team, her role is generally to distract the victim by engaging the victim in conversation, etc. Contrary to what you may believe, experienced pickpockets do not put their hand all the way into your pocket to steal your belongings. The expert pickpocket reaches into the top of the pocket, takes up a pleat in the lining, and continually folds the lining up until the bottom of the pocket (holding your valuables) reaches the top of the pocket.
Here are some pickpocket prevention tips for men:
1. The pickpocket target areas are back trouser pockets, and suit coat and sports jacket pockets, located both inside and out. In general, a pickpocket avoids from trouser pockets, and especially buttoned or zippered pockets.
2. If you have to carry your wallet in an unbuttoned jacket, coat or pants pocket, be sure it holds only what you can afford to lose. Keep large sums of money, credit cards, IDs, etc., in your front pocket or any buttoned or zippered pocket. Some people even place a rubber band around their wallet because the rubber band creates friction and rubs against the fabric of your pocket if someone is attempting to remove it without your knowledge.
A Quick Security Tip: Unless you need to, it is best not to carry any document with your Social Security Number on it as this may help the crook perpetrate an ID theft. In addition, it may be a good idea to only carry the amount of cash, credit cards and other important documents you will really need on your person. All other valuables should be properly secured at your home or other safe location.
3. Never pat your pocket to see if your wallet is there. This just lets the pickpocket know the exact location of your valuables.
4. Larger-size “pocket secretaries” are particularly inviting to pickpockets, and relatively easy to steal.
Here are some specific prevention tips for women:
1. Do not carry your wallet in your purse.
A Quick Security Tip: Conceal your wallet in a buttoned or zippered pocket where it does not show a bulge.
2. Use a purse that is difficult to open. A purse with a zipper or snaps is best.
3. If you are carrying a shoulder bag, place the strap(s) diagonally across your body -- as opposed to carrying it on one shoulder. This keeps the purse in front of you, instead of at your side or behind you. If you are carrying a handbag, make sure to hold it close to the front of your body, instead of holding it on your wrist or loosely in your hand.
4. Never leave your purse unattended on a store counter or in a grocery shopping cart.
It’s important to realize that pickpockets are not quaint characters from a Charles Dickens’ novel, so please don’t make the mistake of making the mischievous pickpocket’s job too easy. If you just put into place a few everyday precautions, you will make this appalling offense much more difficult for the pickpocket.
And, remember, your loss to a pickpocket may not be just a few dollars you may have in your pocket. In this day and age of rampant identity theft, an experienced pickpocket may be able to obtain your personal information from your purse or wallet, and if they use that data to assume your identity, your monetary losses can easily run to the many thousands of dollars.
Copyright 2008 by Bruce Mandelblit
Bruce (Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His email address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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