23 November 2015

Top Tips to avoid being pickpocketed

How often do you get your phone, wallet or cash out of your pocket without so much as a second thought? While doing so may seem perfectly normal, Britons and tourists are unaware they may be unwittingly advertising their valuables to pickpockets.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 442,000 ‘theft from the person’ offences in the year ending June 2015 in England and Wales alone, and a study of pickpocketing victims by Nationwide Building Society reveals some interesting statistics.


  • Pickpockets appear to be exactly that, with the most common place to steal from being pockets (34%), followed by a bag that is being worn (26%) then bags placed on the floor or table (18%)
  • London is by far the most common place for pickpockets offences, with visitors from the South East and East Anglia the most likely to fall prey
  • Following London, Manchester comes second and Birmingham third, while joint fourth is Glasgow / Leeds
  • From this poll, just 19% reported that the culprits were caught
  • Only a fifth (22%) had all of their items covered by insurance

To help you stay on your guard, Nationwide has teamed up with Lee Thompson, an entertainer that specialises in pickpocketing who also advises the police on keeping the public safe from street theft.

Don't be a victim of pickpockets

Play video - Don't be a victim of pickpocketsman in blue coat pickpocketing a woman

Lee’s Top Tips to avoid pickpockets:

Be vigilant — if you suspect a pickpocket is following you, stop what you are doing and go in a different direction. Enter the nearest shop for a few minutes to collect yourself. A pickpocket will lose interest if they suspect you are onto them.

Don’t look like a tourist — pickpockets love tourists because they often carry lumps of cash and are not paying attention. So avoid looking like you are lost or don’t know where you are going.

Travel light — leave your fancy bling and valuables in your hotel room or at home. Expensive gear, such as your laptop and iPad, are much safer in your room than with you in a bag on the streets.

Don’t wear clothes that make you stand out — top end clothes, expensive jewellery or watches are just an advertisement for a pickpocket.

Don’t advertise— if you have to travel with your valuables, for the most part make sure you keep them out of sight. Constantly stopping to take money out of your wallet will only advertise to a pickpocket the location of your valuables.

Secure your bag — thieves want to quickly and unobtrusively separate you from your valuables, so even a minor obstacle can be an effective deterrent. If you’re sitting down to eat or rest, loop the strap from your bag around your arm, leg, or chair leg.

Keep the bare minimum in your wallet — if you are pickpocketed it will be less hassle if you only have one card stolen and a small amount of cash. Keep a backup credit card somewhere secure, like a hotel safe.

Be alert and assertive — be aware of the helpful stranger or a group of kids that surround you. Know the tactics that are used, pickpockets are experts in making conversation in order to distract you.

Hide it — don’t keep important things in ANY outside pockets in your suitcase, jacket, or purse. If you give pickpockets easy access to something, make sure it’s not worth taking. Use inside pockets of jackets and purses that have a zip and/or button to hold important documents, and take advantage of clothing layers to keep your documents buried as much as possible.

Keep it in sight — swing any backpacks around to the front of your body and put your arms through the straps to keep your hands free. This will help you to keep an eye on your valuables. While eating keep your bags between your feet. Don’t place them by or hang them on the back of your chair. Always make sure you are in physical contact with your bags.

Cash machines — when you are using a cash machine, make sure you use one that is well lit, at a reputable building society or bank and not down some dark deserted alley. If the cash machine sucks in your card and does not give it back, go into or contact the building society or bank IMMEDIATELY!

Secure your valuables in a front pocket or in a money belt — you may think they’re not cool but money belts are a low-cost way of holding onto your cash. While these can still be stolen, they’re much safer than keeping your wallet in your back pocket. They’re large enough to carry your cash and cards and discreet enough so not at attract any undue attention.

Secure your backpack — backpacks aren’t great as they can make you look like a tourist and they are a pickpocket’s friend. But if you have to travel with one don’t keep valuables in them, put locks on your zippers and don’t put anything in the back pocket, as you won’t feel it being stolen.

Insure your belongings — one of the best things you can do for peace of mind is to insure your possessions. In fact, if you’re a Nationwide FlexPlus packaged current account customer you’ll receive a range of insurance policies and account benefits for you and your family. All for £10 a month. Exclusions and limitations apply, so please read all the insurance policies and benefit details carefully. Minimum age 18.

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