The Electronic Pickpocket ~
You know how when you’re getting ready to travel everyone has an opinion; a word to the wise tidbit for you? Mostly, you tend to smile, nod your head and feign interest in what they’re saying. Today, I was given a tidbit that was awesome, something I had never thought about but will definitely do before we leave for Paris. But before we get to the tidbit…
Last week I was shopping in Macy’s. Nope, not Christmas shopping, I was looking for a few clothing items for our trip. You know, the perfect sweater that will go with any color of pants? Anyway, I was cruising the women’s department when I noticed a shopping bag and a purse sitting on the floor. I looked around and saw a woman, probably 20 feet away, browsing through the garment racks and I thought to myself, “Lady, you’re either very trusting or very stupid.” Sure enough it was her bag/purse; after several minutes she meandered back and picked up her stuff. I shook my head and thought to myself, “Here we are researching best practices to protect ourselves against the art of pickpockets while in Paris and this woman blatantly leaves her belongings wide open for anyone to walk off with.” Sheesh!
Sadly, pickpocketing is a world-wide problem but from what we’ve learned, it is pretty prevalent in parts of Europe. I’m actually hoping that because we’ll be traveling in the dead of winter, and the tourist population will be very low, we won’t have to worry quite so much, but we will be as prepared as possible. In searching for the perfect day pack that I could wear over my shoulder and across the front of me, I was pretty surprised to learn that there is such a thing as an electronic pickpocket! Yep.
“Wireless identity theft is a relatively new technique of gathering an individual’s personal information from RF-enabled cards carried on a person in their access control, credit, debit, or government issued identification cards. Each of these cards carry a Radio frequency identification chip which responds to certain radio frequencies. When these “tags” come into contact with radio waves, they respond with a slightly altered signal. The response can contain encoded personal identifying information, including the card holder’s name, address, Social Security Number, phone number, and pertinent account or employee information.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_identity_theft
So, because of this high-tech pickpocket, we did our homework and purchased a small anti-theft over the shoulder bag for me which I will wear under my jacket and an anti-theft wallet for Abi. The bag (which can be found on e-bag.com at great prices) is made so that the strap cannot be cut and the interior pocket is a safe pocket, meaning the super special lining prevents any electronic devices from reading information off of something such as a credit card. Abi’s wallet has the same safe guards. We have decided we will not carry a day pack as it stands out as a target. I also will not be carrying my big camera, rather just a pocket-size which can easily fit into my jacket pocket and I won’t be hugely upset if it is stolen.
Some of the other precautions we will take will include locking our backpack straps across the front of us, and lock the zippers, while we move through the airport. We will spend a bit more money and take a taxi from the airport directly to our rented apartment. We have been told that when you travel on public transit such as the Metro with all of your luggage, you of course stand out in a crowd and become a target. The rental company, for our apartment, has been awesome in sharing good relevant information such as which Metro lines to avoid if at all possible because they are high tourist areas and as such high risk. I think the saddest thing we’ve been told is to watch out for children; Gypsy children. They will gather around begging you to buy something, such as a newspaper, while another child picks your pocket. Our friend was burned on the arm with a cigarette to distract her while her wallet was stolen! I can’t help but think that if the thieves put that cunning and ingenuity to a positive use, what they could accomplish?
It’s a sad state of affairs for sure, and as I write this I find it a bit daunting but I refuse to succumb to the fear because then the bad guys, girls and children will win, won’t they? Can’t let that happen. And, knock on wood, in all of our traveling we’ve never had luggage disappear and we’ve never been pick-pocketed. I hope our winning streak continues and I haven’t jinxed anything by talking about this!
Okay, so the tidbit of the day, a kind-hearted man told me today that he sews Velcro into his front pocket where he keeps his wallet because then the pickpocket can’t access the pocket. Brilliant!
To learn about safe travel, here are a few links with good information: