In the UK, we are all familiar with the sign ‘WARNING: Thieves Operate in this Area’. You will find it in tourist hotspots, busy high streets or crowded car parks, but it could be hung almost anywhere. What do you do when you see this sign? I would wager my purse that most of us don’t change our behaviour in any way. Partly out of complacency, we see it so often that our brain hardly notices it anymore. Partly out of ignorance, you never think you will fall victim to theft until after the fact.
In the absence of this literal warning sign, there are a few things that you can look out for to stay vigilant, Now the Summer holidays are upon us, even though they look a little different this year, it is important to know how to protect yourself so you can enjoy yourself.
Crowds and Commotions
Crowds are where thieves thrive. With social distancing rules in place this year, you might think we have the upper hand. It’s important to realise, however, that while we are certainly more aware of our personal space, a seasoned pickpocket doesn’t need Glastonbury-type crowds to operate in. Busy areas with people moving around still provide enough cover and distraction.
Thieves are also willing to make their own distractions and will often work in teams to achieve this. A staged scuffle to grab attention not only gets people gathered in one place quickly, it also draws focus away from your teammate working through the spectators. Alternatively, if you have targeted a specific mark, you can engage them in conversation, asking for directions or the time, while your partner lifts their wallet.
These are just a couple of examples of how thieves use distraction to their advantage. It is one of their primary tools and, just by being aware of it, you can start to avoid it.
Flashing Your Cash – and other things
Successful thieves are observant thieves. While you may not think you are flaunting your valuables, simply riffling through your cash to find a fiver, sifting through credit cards or leaving your phone out next to you means that anyone with a good eye can gauge your value as a target. An expensive watch or jewellery can also send these kinds of signals, so you may want to save your favourite accessories for a special occasion.
On the flipside, being overly cautious can also be a red flag. Are you guilty of tapping your back pocket to make sure your phone is still there? This tells any would-be thieves that you have something valuable and exactly where to find it.
Looking Like A Tourist
Tourists are easy targets, who often carry cash and cameras with them. When you are somewhere unfamiliar, your guard is down as you adjust to your surroundings and you are more distracted trying to find your way around. Walking with confidence is the first step – even if you don’t know where you are going, pretend and look like you do!
Other things may set you apart from the local residents. In the country but wearing trends found on the streets of London? Walking around with a selfie stick or guide to the city? These types of things are clues that thieves pick up on, so try to blend in a little so you don’t give off those tourist vibes.
This is a big one! If you are going away somewhere nice for a few nights, you obviously can’t wait to tell your friends. But maybe wait to share your holiday pics until you are safely back at home. Photos of you hundreds of miles away, posted in real time on social media, don’t just say ‘Look at how much fun I’m having!’. They also say ‘I’m not at my house, and won’t be for some time’. Some thieves will take that as an invitation, so be weary about when and who you share your snaps with.
The best way to avoid falling victim to thieves is just being aware of your belongings and your surroundings. This is so much easier said than done when we are out enjoying ourselves! And so I will leave you with this – precautions are everything. Only take what you need with you, shield your wallet and pin when paying for anything, don’t leave your phone lying around and, of course, zipped bags are your friend!