Down with Pickpockets: Safety Tips for Women

by | Mar 19, 2018

Man trying to pickpocket woman
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Last updated on April 15th, 2024

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Be Pickpocket Savvy With these Tips 

by Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman

Be very aware, ladies. Pickpockets are experts in the art of distraction. They divert your attention for several quick seconds and in that short time, they relieve you of your travel valuables. It happens fast. You have no idea that it has actually happened and when you do find out, the thieves are long gone.

Scam artists prey on travellers because they know that you are in foreign surroundings and not completely sure of yourself. You are so busy experiencing new sights and sounds that you’re not fully aware of what else is going on around you. They choose you because you are the perfect victim.

It’s up to you to outsmart them. Be pickpocket savvy! Here, taken from our Journeywoman files, are some creative distractions to watch for:

Cardboards, long skirts, and doo-doo…

Someone deftly smears toothpaste on your jacket and then tries to get you to believe that it is bird droppings. Since no one enjoys having “doo-doo” on their clothes, we are relieved to have a kind stranger appear with offers to clean it off. Don’t fall for it! While he’s scrubbing, his pickpocketin’ partner is stealing your passport.

Children carrying newspapers or large sheets of cardboard swarm around you and hold these items in front of your face. This is suddenly very frightening and you’re momentarily distracted. Try to keep focused because these defiant little tykes are very quick. Before you can say, “Journeywoman,” your hard-earned holiday money is gone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This happened to me in front of the train station in Paris. However, I had read about these little street urchins and began shouting and waving my free hand (the one not pulling my suitcase on wheels) and the kiddies were not successful. Phew!

In Rome, a mother holding an infant (really a life-size doll) suddenly shouts and tosses her tiny, helpless child to you. What self-respecting Journeywoman would let a baby drop? You would… if you’re pickpocket savvy. Mama is only trying to get your attention while Papa does his dirty work. Uh-oh, your credit card’s gone!

What about this one? In Rome, old women wearing long soiled dresses come right up close, surround you, and in very loud Italian wail and beseech you to buy the booklets they’re selling. While you’re stepping back, insisting you’re not interested, little kiddies reach out from under those long skirts and…watch out! You’ve been pickpocketed.

Picture this. You’re in a crowded bus minding your own business and suddenly you’re groped. Yuck! While you’re indignantly looking around to see who’s guilty, someone else is busy zipping open your backpack. He helps himself to your wallet. That makes two big violations and the guilty parties are, sadly, seldom identified.

Get the idea? We hope that these five examples will convince you to keep your valuables close to your skin and in a money belt. Robberies are never, ever pleasant. With a little bit of Journeywoman smarts you can have fun and avoid the hassles of filling out futile police reports for valuables that will probably never be returned to you.

Down with pickpockets of the world!

Women’s words on thieves…

No one is ever warmed by wool pulled over his eyes.
(Marcelene Cox, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1948)

He was so crooked, you could have used his spine for a safety-pin.
(Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors, 1934)

She could carry off anything; and some people said that she did.
(Ada Levenson, Love at Second Sight, 1916)

(Source: The New Beacon Book of Quotations By Women)

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.


  1. Carmen Rodriguez

    In Italy, I was warned by an Italian couple from Quebec. I was told be careful if you find yourself surrounded by people, children, etc..
    They will do that to distract you and try to rob you.

    I love your website, and check in from time to time to see what’s new for women.

    Thank you.
    Carmen Rodriguez

  2. Hugh

    My fiancée had her wallet lifted in her Chicago hotel earlier this year.
    She said it had to have to happened after she paid for her coffee the morning after she arrived in town.
    She told me when she called to tell me about it, that she had zipped her purse when she put her wallet back in her purse.
    Coming from a family of people who are in law enforcement- she didn’t listen to her father, brother or brother-in-law about carrying a high dollar designer purse and wallet in a city known for its crime.
    Luckily for her, the police found her wallet minus her cash and credit cards.


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