Prevention is Key in Protecting Yourself From Pickpockets

Prevention is Key in Protecting Yourself From Pickpockets

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Philadelphia, PAPhillyBite Theft - Enjoying a day or night out, whether on your own or with friends should be enjoyed without worry or care that something terrible may happen.  Unfortunately for me, a careless step taken by me because I thought that an uncrowded street surrounded by police meant safety for myself and my personal belongings.

I was covering an event which was rained out, but I wanted to purchase a few things at some vendors who remained. I took advantage of being one of a few people who stuck around during the torrential downpours, knowing the rain would let up, and the vendors would appreciate my patronage to their pop-up stores.  

So instead of burying my wallet to make it difficult to access, I put it into an easily accessible pocket in my bookbag. Unknowingly to me, there was a thief who either watched where I placed my wallet or by sheer luck (for him, not me) found it very quickly.

When I went into the vendor's tent where this incident occurred, the customer area only gave way for one person at a time.  Being boxed in, the thief must have seen his opportunity to steal, so he came up behind me. I’m sensitive to having my personal space invaded, so I could feel he was too close for comfort, and I quickly turned my head and told him to back off.  It took only seconds, but within that brief time he had already unzipped and stolen my wallet while I was using cash that I had hidden on me.

I thought it was rather odd when the vendor stated out loud, “You have a pink wallet?” I looked up and thought to myself, ‘How does she know that I have a pink wallet?’ Then I realized she was addressing the man who had stood too close to me and backed away when I had demanded it.  Moreover, I don’t pass judgment on anyone for their choices, so I just went back to my transaction, thinking perhaps he just liked pink too.

About ten minutes after that is when I realized I had been robbed, thankfully without any violence.

If this ever happens to you, try to keep a cool head—it won’t help you at all to panic.  Here is what I did, and some suggestions for you in case you are ever robbed:

  • Make sure you have all of the phone numbers to all your credit cards in your contacts list.  You don’t need to have your account number; the companies have other ways to look that number up.
  • I suggest the first card you cancel is anything that directly pulls from your bank account.  Fraudulent charges will be reimbursed, but only if the bank can prove the charges were not made by you. If they cannot confirm the fraudulent charges, you will not see that money again.
  • Once that is done, call all the other credit card companies that you hold accounts with to cancel and dispute any charges made by the thief.
  • Never keep your social security card, birth certificate, or other pertinent identification in your wallet. It’s sound advice in general, but it the thief is bold enough to steal from you, then be sure that he or she will find some way to use that too.  
  • Try to keep your driver's license separate from your credit cards.  It’s hard enough to go through the aftermath of dealing with being robbed; having to prove you are whom you say you are without ID would be a painful process.  
  • Purchase an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wallet.  It is made specially to prevent thieves who use skimmers to steal your credit card information using radio airwaves.  You can purchase them online at a variety of sites, along with traveling companies (like AAA).
  • Call the police to report the incident.  I will not get into the weak reaction from the police that I received, but having a police report will aide in any remaining issues that you have to face with obtaining new accounts.

Because I canceled my cards so quickly after the theft occurred, the amount he succeeded in stealing was minimal ($202 at Starbucks and a $50 unused gift card, and my $40 wallet). However, his total attempts surmounted to 2K dollars—including two other attempts at Starbucks for $300.  I laughed at that; I love coffee—but not that much.

I try to look on the positive side, so my takeaway is that this was a lesson learned. I will only carry my wallet/money where I would notice someone’s attempt to steal from me. Moreover, I wanted to share some of my experience with you so that you can learn from me.

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