The "Dirt On Shirt" Scam

The unwary traveler is ripe prey for a professional scammer and they don’t even need sophisticated tools to rip you off. The “dirt on shirt” scam uses just a bit of smudge, some napkins, and a small group of conspirators with nimble fingers to relieve you of your belongings.

Globe Spots describes it thusly:

You are walking in a crowed street and suddenly you get something on your jacket. It can be anything from coffee to dog pooh. Faster than lightning a diverse group of friendly locals want to help, offering to clean your jacket with their very convenient napkins. Before you realize what is going on your wallet/money belt/camera/daypack is changing hands. The solution is to “be cool” when it happens, decline their service firmly and walk away fast. You can always check out the stains in a safer place later on. If you don’t realize the scam before they are freeing you from your valuables, yell out and act aggressively. Trick thieves are rarely into attention and violence, but use your good judgement

Have you ever gotten fleeced while traveling? Sound off in the comments.

Travel scams [GlobeSpots]

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  1. The Porkchop Express says:

    My advice: Wear dirty shirts while on vacation.

    • outis says:

      It’s half the fun!

      • stormbird says:

        Sigh. The TSA can be defeated by stank. I doubt that terrorists are very clean. “Wait! I should shower so I don’t offend those people I am going to kill!”

        • PTB315 says:

          The key behind terror attacks is to get to your objective without being noticed. They probably shower and dress decent and do everything they can not to draw attention to themselves.

          • bravohotel01 says:

            The *real* key behind terror attacks is to scare your adversary so much that he sees boogie men everywhere, forever.

            • Rena says:

              …but if you’re going to hijack a plane, you need to get onto the plane, and to do that you need to get through security without drawing attention to yourself.

    • sonneillon says:

      My brother tried to get TSA to do their enhanced pat down when he got off work at a fish wholesaler. He just went straight to the airport.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Do the thieves put the dirt on your shirt somehow or do they walk around all day with napkins waiting for an “opportunity”?

    • Cantras says:

      I’m guessing if you hang out within 40 paces of an ice cream stand, you have good odds. But maybe they’re jostling people deliberately.

    • outis says:

      Yeah, they often use little squirt bottles. At least they did in the version that was popular a few years ago in the UK.

  3. sufreak says:

    Always a good reminder. I’m planning on traveling to Europe this summer

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Watch out when you are tightly packed together such as in trains, busses, outdoor flea markets, etc. because they will cut your purse (assuming you are a woman with a purse) with a sharp razor blade and pull your wallet out without you even knowing.

      Spread your money around on your person, don’t keep it all together. Keep some cash separate from your wallet with rubber bands around it.

      • Trance says:

        Buy a money belt (the one your wear inside your pants). I’ve used one for 10 years of traveling and never had to worry about getting robbed. The way I figured, I would notice if someone stuck his/her hands down my pants!

    • jessjj347 says:

      I don’t mean to sound racist, but watch out for gypsies. They try to sell junk toys and all of the sudden get too close to comfort to you (and pick pocket you).

  4. Alvis says:

    That doesn’t sound so much like a scam as a mugging.

  5. Costner says:

    Studies have shown people can only focus on one bodily interaction at once and tend to focus upon the physical touch that is most intense, thus when someone bumps into a person while lifting their wallet, most people only feel the bump. Same is true in this case – a person is so focused on someone wiping a stain (which is probably done with vigor and speed to distract the mark), then won’t feel someone removing their wallet or phone or whatever.

    I find a front pocket wallet increases the mental security by about 500%. Most thieves target those who appear to be easy hits, so if they notice a lack of a visible billfold in the back pocket or the lack of visible jewelery etc, they are likely to move on. Sort of like a deadbolt lock on a house – sometimes it isn’t necessary to have 100% security, but if you make things more difficult than average, the thieves will often move on to an easier target.

    • Michaela says:

      I never understood why people keep valuables in their back pockets. It is so much easier to lift an item from there than from the front pocket, imo.

      However, I use the boob method. If someone can get through a turtleneck and bra to my cash without me noticing, then heck, I applaud their skill.

      • Kate says:

        So do you do a strip tease when you pay for things?

        • Michaela says:

          No. I just reach down my turtle neck (I have very thin arms), grab my money, and then hand it over.

          • flyingwolf says:

            I’m sure your cashier just loves having to handle the sweaty/perfumey/it was attached to your boob/ cast you just handed them.

            How would you feel if I reached down my pants and pulled out a 20 from my crotch to pay for that mocha latte.

            • Michaela says:

              You must not do this much.

              Sweaty? If the bills can fit on your side boob, you really don’t have that issue. Plus, I don’t really ever sweat (my body has a hard time heating itself).

              Perfumey? Why would I have perfume on my boob? I use unscented soap too, so I don’t see that issue.

              As for the whole boob mentality, I honestly don’t care. It isn’t like I am leaking fluids from there, or that I have a disease. It is skin. It is actually probably cleaner than my hands, since my fingers and palms are all over door knobs, counters, and other surfaces all day.

            • ZekeDMS says:

              From my own retail experience, way way better than sweaty pocket dollars. Those are pretty gross.

              Boobybucks aren’t bad as long as they come from a thin wallet or a non-sweaty area. Underbutter dollars are never good, but otherwise they’re not worse than any other money.

              Also, most male retail employees don’t care if the girl’s hot. Or just to their personal taste. Just be ready for that one creepy teenage worker to sniff the dollar.

            • Guppy says:

              The money doesn’t gross me out, but I think it’s tacky.

      • ARP says:

        Ah, the Polish [insert other ethnicity] grandmother wallet.

      • Julia789 says:

        Yeah when I’m not carrying a purse (while walking the dog, etc.) my bra holds everything from cash to my iPhone. The only annoying thing is when I bump the power button on my iPhone and it lights up, giving me a glowing chest at night.

    • alexwade says:

      I always put my wallet in my front pocket and in a foreign country I put a rubber band around my wallet. It provides enough friction that it can’t be easily lifted out of pocket. If it is cold, I put my wallet and other necessities inside my coat pocket and leave my coat zipped up. I don’t like long sleeve shirts, so keeping the coat on isn’t too hot.

    • dg says:

      Back when I was in college, I’d take the Amtrak to/from school. The train station was filled with nice people, and total scumbags. Growing up in the City, I always had my antennae on high alert in such locations.

      So when I’d go to school, I’d put my wallet in my inside jacket pocket – zippered up, and put a wad of rubberbanded toilet paper with a note on it that said “FUCK YOU”. Out of 30 times that I went through the station, that wad got stolen 6 times – I never knew when or how. But it was gone.

      The crooks take advantage of crowded areas, so you don’t really notice even getting bumped.

      As for anyone approaching me on the street – I say “No thanks” the first time. And LOUDLY SAY “Get the fuck away from me you asshole(s)” the second… as I walk away…

  6. Murbob says:

    Anytime you’re on vacation and a stranger makes physical contact with you, you should double check yourself.
    2nd, you should secure your valuables so they can’t be taken so easily. Zip up and/or button your pockets closed, attach quick-connect buckles with an extra safety catch, etc etc.

    The only people who are easy to rip off are the stupid ones who think the world around them is benign.

    • _joecrawford says:

      I live in DC and do this any time someone bumps into me. I have seen people lose something valuable on the Metro without anyone being the wiser.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        It’s amazing to me that people are so lackadaisical about their electronics on the DC metro. Not just tourists, but residents. They don’t understand, apparently, that thieves are totally willing to knock you down to get your iPod.

  7. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    I got hit in Chicago. Shoe shine scam. Guy offers to “show me what he can do” to my shoes, despite my weak protests that I don’t need it. He does a half assed shine, and then proclaims that I owe him for the shine. A partner, larger and more intimidating, shows up to confirm his price. $8 he says…per shoe. For 4 minutes work. I got the feeling that I would be roughed up if I didn’t pay, so I paid and got the hell out of there. They had the audacity to ask for a TIP as I left!

    • ARP says:

      A more common version of this in Europe is when wandering shoe shine people “accidently” drop their brush. You’re a good person, so you retrieve it or point this out to them. They motion that they want to thank you by giving you a shine and imply that its free, but don’t say so explicitly. Then when its done, then demand a lot of money. You can’t argue that it was free because they never explicitly said that.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        No need to argue, just walk away laughing.

        • greggen says:

          There is a threat of violence in this scam.. You are usually surrounded by a few people.

          But sure, be an internet tough guy and walk away smiling.. Then use some kung foo and matrix action to avoid the blows..

          • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

            A good consumerist can defend them self with a rat-tailed brush or something like that. There are all kinds of self-defense techniques for people of any size. I’m 400 pounds and have martial arts training (no blackbelt) so from my point of view it’s a perfectly reasonable response.

    • Roloboto says:

      Ah ahaha! Sucker!!

      • Platypi {Redacted} says:

        No kidding. I kicked myself (with poorly shined shoes) all day for actually allowing him to get that close. Never again!

    • humphrmi says:

      I also happened onto one of these when I was in the River North district eating at Ed’s a long time ago. Thing is, I was on my way to a meeting and just happened to *really* need a shine. And the scammer didn’t do a bad job. The thug was probably ticked off that he didn’t get to appear and flex his muscles.

      Another scam in that area to be very wary of: someone says their car is broken down in the alley, and asks if you can give him a hand (pushing it, trying to start it, whatever). You go down the alley and suddenly realize, you’re in a dark alley with a bunch of thugs around you. Whoopsie! (I never fell for that one, although they also seem to hang out around Ed’s too).

    • ellemdee says:

      A friend of mine got pickpocketed in Chicago on Michigan Ave. by a guy who kept bugging us to buy tickets to some random play. He kept asking, even though everyone in my group said no repeatedly. The next time she went to pay for something, she realized all her money was gone out of her pocket. She must have been so distracted by how annoying the guy was being that she didn’t notice what happened at the time. He was probably just trying to keep her standing in one place for a minute or two and took off only when his accomplice got the cash.

    • dreamcatcher2 says:

      I fell in the EXACT same situation… I felt so dumb for letting it happen! The worst part is that they have the experience, they precisely position themselves and spring themselves on you when you are in a spot where you don’t have a lot of freedom (low traffic area, back against a wall…) Seems benign to a naive small-town guy like myself, until they start behaving in a physically threatening manner.

  8. pop top says:

    One of my mom’s friends goes with his wife to visit his family back in Italy at least once a year. They told us about a Roma scam where an elderly woman would bring over a very large and very ornate book with beautiful calligraphy and artwork to show you and she’d hold it open in both hands while talking to you about it. At this point supposedly, one or two small children who had been hiding in her voluminous skirts would pop out, hide under the book and rifle through your packets/bag/purse/whatever and pop back under her skirts and they’d leave. I don’t know how true the story is, but it’s a pretty ingenious method.

    • kennedar says:

      My father in law swears that he has seen someone get robbed using a baby as a prop. They ask for a hand while they grab something out of their purse or wherever, so you take a small baby/child. While your hands are busy with the baby, they reach out and grab your valuables. Most people are not willing to drop/hurt a baby so they don’t put up much of a fight. Dad claims that they then walk away, leaving you with the child. If it was true, it would be a great method for robbing someone, but I highly doubt anyone would be willing to sacrifice their child just to make a few dollars!

  9. adrew says:

    A few years ago, my college roommate and I had a 12+ hour layover in Amsterdam on our way to Norway, so we left the airport and decided to go out exploring the canal and Red Light districts (of course). We were just sightseeing and didn’t utilize any of the district’s services, but at one point some shady characters came around a corner, ran into us, acted like it was our fault, and then “accidentally” dropped their crack pipes on the ground.

    This caused much consternation for them, as they were quite upset at the prospect of having to buy fresh crack. I thought about making a big scene or making a run for it, but there were no other people around and I didn’t want to risk getting shanked. So I gave them €20 and that calmed them down enough for us to get out of there.

  10. punteruk says:

    In Barcelona at a shop the owner pointed outside to a pregnant lady waiting for the bus. She said the lady had pulled a scam there over several days where she would fake labor, have some tourists dive in to help, and her accomplice would relieve them of their wallets while they were distracted. The shopkeeper called the cops whenever she saw her but the scam was usually complete and the scammers gone by the time they arrived.

    • MysticYoYo says:

      And this is why most people are too wary to help strangers “in trouble”: scammers like these who would rather rip off good Samaritans rather than get a real job.

  11. SideshowCrono says:

    Some guy tried to shake me down with the “dropped glasses” scam a few months back in Midtown NYC. I was just walking back from lunch and this large man casually bumps into me while holding his glasses in one hand. At which point the glasses fell to the ground and he starts making a bit of a scene about how their broken and they were expensive. He just kept going “What are you going to do about it?” I just told him he bumped into me, he dropped his glasses and then asked him how the one lense SHATTERED from being dropped from three feet up. He gave me the stink eye for a bit, asked one one time what I was going to do and then I just suggested we find a cop to help us.

    Apparently then it wasn’t such a big deal and he mozied on away. Surprise.

    • maddypilar says:

      Someone tried to pull something similar on me when I first moved to NY. Only she stopped short in front of me and when I stepped on her heal she claimed I broke her shoe. She followed me for two blocks asking me what I was going to do about it. I repeatedly told her, “Nothing. You shouldn’t stop short in front of people on the sidewalk.” When she told me that “most people” would compensate her I told her that those people must be nicer than me. Then I went into my building and shut the door in her face.

  12. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    You are walking in a crowed street and suddenly you get something on your jacket. It can be anything from coffee to dog pooh.

    Well, if I’m walking in a crowed street, let’s be realistic here and acknowledge that if you get anything on your jacket, it’s probably going to be crow poo.

  13. Michaela says:

    I never ran into this scam overseas, but people tried that stupid gold ring trick on me about 10 times in Paris. Luckily, I knew enough French to say some nasty things and tell the loser with the ring to get lost.

    • Supes says:

      I don’t have that much sympathy for people who fall for it… unlike the various scams that are “lets distract someone and steal their money,” the whole gold ring scam preys on people’s greed, much like Nigerian 419 scam.

      When people have their money pickpocketed (or shaken down, like in the glasses scam) I feel bad. When they’re greedy and give their money away since something “seems to good to be true” it’s their own fault.

  14. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    “I went to the Vatican City. I’m looking at the Vatican and I notice this lady all in black staring at me from across the street with a baby. And she’s got two grown up kids too – all in black. Out of nowhere she throws the baby at me. Just throws it – lobs it through the air. I’m like ‘OH MY GOD I HAVE TO CATCH THIS BABY!’ I position myself to catch it and as I am her bigger kids run across the street and pick my pockets. Take my cash, credits cards, traveler checks – everything – and then they are gone and i’m standing there with a baby. So…you know…let that be a travelling tip for you. If a women throws a baby at you, just swat it to the ground. Swat it and go ‘I Don’t Think So!’”

    - Anthony Clark

  15. Shadowfax says:

    New Orleans has a good one. They’ll come up and bet you that they can tell you where you got your shoes. If you’re dumb enough to respond, they’ll say “on your feet. Pay up.” Then they’ll usually point to some intimidating looking guy who will supposedly beat the hell out of you if you don’t pay.

    • AI says:

      “No sir, my feet are where I HAVE my shoes. However I GOT them at a store which you failed to identify. Please settle your debt now like a gentleman.”

    • tduren says:

      LOL! This happened to me several times on several visits to NO. I always answer for them so the conversation ends right there. I knew it was some type of scam but could never figure out what would happen if I agreed.

      I guess that is why I was never asked when I was with my buddies.

  16. Robert_SF says:

    I just thought of this while reading the tales of the persons who being “threatened” by locals pulling a scam (dropped glasses, or crack pipe, or whatever)….

    I have heard it’s best to yell “Fire!” when you need help, since pleas for help are often ignored, but fire brings people around….so ask a local authority (hotel employee, or learned friend) the local language term for “Fire! Police!” or similar, to use in case you need to get some help or attention right away….

    Just an idea, and of course, think about it with some common sense and not use it in a crowded situation…

  17. thrillcook says:

    As a group we would play Reverse Gypsy, where we would take our old food wrappers, museum fliers and other trash and put them in each others pockets. It kept each of us on our toes, and keeping an eye on each other.

    • PipeRifle says:

      My friends and I used to do this with wet-naps. Two of my roommates worked at a steakhouse so they always had hundreds of individually-wrapped wet-naps lying around. They’re a great size for hiding (about 1.5″ square and thin) and easy to palm. We’d slip them into each other’s pockets, hide them in the lining of coats, sneak them wherever we could. When you found one, the person who planted it would laugh and laugh.

      About two years after moving out, I found a wet-nap folded and wedged under the cap of a bottle of cologne I never wore, and I smiled. Good times.

    • physics2010 says:

      Funny. We’d do the same thing except with the EAS tags from DVDs etc. Walk in with a bunch of deativated tags, use a ring magnet to re-energize and then slip them into people’s pockets and purses. Wintertime works the easiest with the big coats and gaping pockets.

  18. I'll Buy That For A Dollar says:

    Here’s a scam some punks tried running on me:

    A few years ago as I was walking towards the Port Authority, a kid “bumped” into me. He immediately picks up a pair of glasses off the ground and and claimed I cracked it during the bump. Now at this point a bunch of his friends came running over to see what was the commotion and to surround me. I took a look at the glasses and saw indeed it was cracked and NEATLY folded. Also it was a size too small to fit him perfectly – something a person wearing glasses should know, like me. He starts to demand compensation for the damage and judging by the looks of his friends it was either that or a beat down. I took a look at them and immediately pointed to the cops standing at the entrance of the PA and said “Why don’t we just ask the cops if you think I should pay you.” They saw where I pointed and started to walk away.

  19. I'll Buy That For A Dollar says:

    Here’s a scam some punks tried running on me:

    A few years ago as I was walking towards the Port Authority, a kid “bumped” into me. He immediately picks up a pair of glasses off the ground and and claimed I cracked it during the bump. Now at this point a bunch of his friends came running over to see what was the commotion and to surround me. I took a look at the glasses and saw indeed it was cracked and NEATLY folded. Also it was a size too small to fit him perfectly – something a person wearing glasses should know, like me. He starts to demand compensation for the damage and judging by the looks of his friends it was either that or a beat down. I took a look at them and immediately pointed to the cops standing at the entrance of the PA and said “Why don’t we just ask the cops if you think I should pay you.” They saw where I pointed and started to walk away.

  20. billsquared says:

    Fortunately never had this problem ourselves, but while out for lunch in Rome, the fella seated at the table next to us had his wallet lifted by Roma. One of them waved a handful of flyers around in their faces, while somebody else absconded with his wallet. He had broken the cardinal rule of leaving it sitting on the table while the waiter returned with his card.

    The morals of the story:
    1) Always keep your wallet secured at all times;
    2) When possible, avoid sitting in the outside row of tables when dining al fresco.

    • TexasP says:

      Ah yes, reminds me of my first day living in New York. I was seated at a cafe table next to the sidewalk. The couple at the next table got their bill, put cash in the folder, and got up to leave. At that point, a well-dressed man (suit and tie) on roller blades came scooting down the sidewalk, picked up the folder, and scooted away. It was so smooth that it took me a minute to fully recognize what happened. Then I thought: welcome to NYC!

      I admired his chutzpah — and handed my cash directly to the waiter. Years later another man tried the ol’ broken eyeglass scam on me… but by then I was a cynical veteran.

    • Powerlurker says:

      I visited Rome this past summer and whenever I saw Roma in groups/begging for money, it was “hands-in-pockets” time.

  21. golddog says:

    This hasn’t happened to me but I’ve seen it in action and been approached…

    Money changing by people on the street. Someone, often very nice and well spoken, will approach and have a seemingly reasonable excuse why they can’t change money at a bank or kiosk, e.g., they had their passport stolen, and they’ll give you a modestly good deal to change funds with you e.g., euros for your dollars. Once the transaction is complete, a confederate will appear and produce a badge, demand to see the bills and say they are counterfeit and begin to detain both parties for questioning. You’re kind of freaking out and the guy you changed money with argues his case with the officer fluently in his native tongue and the end result is the officer “lets you off” by confiscating the bills and a fine.

    A variation of this happens in countries that aren’t on the euro yet, like in Czech Rep. The currency in neighboring Hungary looks exactly like Czech currency, only its worthless by comparison.

    In these and most other situations, no one needs to talk to a tourist for help (or usually wants to help without an ulterior motive). Never be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings on the street. I’ve been to some pretty sketchy countries and despite traveling low key, I’m usually obviously not from the neighborhood. I’ve found two strategies proactively cover 99% of hassles: either pretending to not speak English, or gently moving a hand somewhere out of sight, looking them in the eye and saying very firmly “You’re kidding me right?”. YMMV.

    • Portlandia says:

      I had something simmilar happen to me in Naples just last week. I was trying to use the kiosk to buy a train ticket but it wouldn’t take my credit card. Instantly, a very kind person at the machine next to me tried to assist me or let me use his machine because it was working. He said “do you have cash, you can use this machine”.

      I flatly refused. I know my card should work in the machines (as I had used the machines just a few days before). He was very annoyed that I didn’t want his help but it just didn’t feel right. He had also been standing at the adjoining ticket machine for far longer than need be to get a ticket. He was there for many minutes after I went to the ticket counter to get my ticket. I’m assuming it was some kind of scam but just said no.

      Also in the Naples train station this old guy tried to look at my train ticket and assist me with my bags. I told him to leave me alone too…then he started asking me for money for a cup of coffee.

      It does get old after a while.

    • onlyme says:

      “I’ve been to some pretty sketchy countries and despite traveling low key, I’m usually obviously not from the neighborhood.”
      Off topic, but somehow, when traveling, I am perceived by other travelers as being native. Twice in Hungary, other tourists stopped and asked me for directions, and once in Ireland, some Australians asked me how to use the train ticket machine.
      Shrug.

  22. Portlandia says:

    In Morocco I got taken for a ride by a little kid. I got lost in the maze of souks (tightly packed and maze like stall markets) and wandered too far out. This CUTE little kid with his school uniform comes up and offers to show me the way back to the main town square. He starts taking me down allies and through side streets, after a couple minutes of this I got VERY concerned I was being led to an ambush. Once he thought we were sufficiently lost he started demanding money if I wanted to know the real way. I was so mad, I refused and walked the other direction. Thankfully I found a smaller square where someone else offered to show me “They way” I told them no and thankfully a mini-cab came along and he took me back to the main square. Sadly enough, I ventured back into the souks again and got lost…I know I know…get this, another little kid offered to show me the way, he pointed to the right. I immediately went left an found my way right away but boy did he start to cuss and yell at me…lol…felt good.

    In Argentina, someone tried the point and distract technique one me. He was pointing towards something on the ground to get my attention while his partner was on the other side trying to get into your bag. I looked for a half a second then thought this isn’t right and turned the opposite direction. Sure enough, somebody that wasn’t there a second ago was very very close to me. He just smiled and walked away. When I turned back around the “pointer” was gone.

    Thankfully, in all my years of travelling the worst I’ve ever done is left my gameboy on a plane once and been taken by 3 card monte for $50 bucks.

  23. suez says:

    I remember hearing these sorts of stories while traveling through Italy back in the early 90s–not a new trick. As Madeye Moody would say, “CONSTANT VIGILENCE!”

  24. goodfellow_puck says:

    My parents were riding a train in Hungary with a local friend of theirs when a guy (on an otherwise empty train car) walked up and crowded my mother against a wall. Their friend immediately told my father to watch his stuff as this was an obvious attempt to distract him. When the partner realized they couldn’t score, they both left the car.

  25. The cake is a lie! says:

    This is why I vacation in the nude. Not much to steal that way. not much at all…

    • sqeelar says:

      I sell eye bleach, so I make a fortune travelling with this crowd. I sell out so quickly I pre-position new supplies. The only drawback is sometimes good looking locals catch on and strip down. There go my sales.

  26. Out For Delivery says:

    The only time I was ever fleeced while travelling was on my second trip to Seattle where I bought $60 worth of “hash” in Pike Place Market from a random guy who approached me in the outdoor stairways that criss cross the market.

    Turned out to be incense. It was actually a pretty big scam that I ran across in another urban town too. There was a certain kind of incense that looked, felt, and smelt a lot like dark hash.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      This is actually a great scam to pull, because you weren’t exactly going to complain to the police.

  27. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Sounds like a very thin money holder/baggie attached to the bra with a safety pin, or pinned underneath the front of a man’s shirt is a good solution to this problem.

  28. Treespeed says:

    Just for contrast to some of these great stories, I dropped my credit card in a Paris coffee shop and someone turned it in and it was there hours later when I realized where I’d lost it.

  29. bluline says:

    A friend visiting Barcelona took the precaution of buying a purse with steel cables for a strap to prevent thieves from cutting the straps and running off with the entire purse, even if she had it around her neck. Didn’t help. Pickpockets got her wallet out of the purse within hours of her arrival in the city. You definitely have to be on your toes over there.

  30. BettyCrocker says:

    pooh == poo

  31. FerretGirl says:

    Riding the subway in the evening two guys got on the train. It was them and me. I had my backpack on the seat next to me. One of them hopped up from where he was sitting and stood near the pole next to me. I picked up my backpack like to get something out of it, got lip gloss out of it, then set it back down on the floor between my feet.

    The guys both got off at the next stop, grinning at me. One saluted as he left.

    Could be I’m paranoid, but I’ve still got my backpack.

    • ARP says:

      I always have my bag on my lap or at my feet. Usually have a strap wrapped around my hand or foot, so they’d have to drag me with them.

  32. Mecharine says:

    I keep my money in the soles of my shoes.

  33. MrEvil says:

    I prevent such scams from working by wearing a default expression of utter contempt on my face. Keeps the bums off my ass when I’m walking Sixth street here in Austin.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      If you also walk with a lunging stride like you just got out of prison, that helps too. I used to do that where I lived in California because there were so many panhandlers downtown.

  34. Outrun1986 says:

    I have heard a good solution for men at least is to wear a pair of shorts with lots of pockets then put a pair of pants over them. Of course you are keeping all your valuables in your shorts which are under your pants.

    • Supes says:

      So basically you have to “reach down your pants” into your shorts to get anything… that sounds like it’ll get you arrested in most countries.

    • greggen says:

      When I was in italy years ago, we were warned that there were kids who taped cardboard to the tops of their hands and hid knives under neigh. They would, it was said, slice open the pants to get at the wallet, not caring if they cut you..

      Also fell for the shoeshine scam in Mexico city back in the 80′s.. Boy did I feel stupid…

  35. Dr.Wang says:

    When I lived and visited Chicago I found you drastically reduce contact with street vermin if you don’t make eye contact with people on the sidewalk. Just know where you are going and with a determined stare, move in that direction. If someone tries to talk to you just keep moving and do not respond or look at them. Might also try to walk as if you are in a hurry too. This always seemed to work around entrances to the subway and elevated trains where these ilk seem to hover.
    Here in Arizona I see lots and lots of women walking in or around stores with a cellphone stuck to the side of their head but they are not speaking. I wonder if most of these are done to avoid hassles with people, that they’re not really connected to anyone.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      You could also walk around with headphones on, if someone tries to talk to you, point to the headphones. It would work even if you weren’t really listening to music, so of course you could hear the others around you.

      • BytheSea says:

        DO NOT walk around with headphones anywhere dodgy. It makes you a complete target. Theives want you distracted, and headphones do the job for them.

        • Chaosium says:

          “DO NOT walk around with headphones anywhere dodgy. It makes you a complete target. Theives want you distracted, and headphones do the job for them.”

          Depends. Confidence tricksters will stop trying to get your attention, but if you’re looking confident with the headphones on, scammers won’t bother. I don’t think muggers give a damn whether you’re wearing headphones or not.

  36. akepp7 says:

    I was in New Orleans and somebody tried the “I bet you I can guess where you got your shoes!” line on me. Luckily I had read the hotel’s informational book cover to cover while waiting for my wife to get ready and I had learned that very trick!

    When he said it to me, I said “I got them on my feet, buddy!” and he just laughed.

    I was very satisfied with myself!

    • Bystander says:

      Dress poor and walk belligerent Protect your valuables and be aware of your surroundings.
      Worked for me for over 50 years, but I’m big, too.

  37. misslisa says:

    As a very petite woman, I frequently assume that any stranger approaching me is up to no good. I mean, why would they need MY help, or need to help me with anything? Unless I get a very good vibe that the person is legit, I have frequently embarassed myself – and them – rather than fall victim. As in, when a guy (or occassionally female gypsy), approaches in a parking lot somewhere with, “Maam, do you have the time”, “Excuse me lady, can you help me with ____”, or one of my favorites, “Can I show you something?”, before they can get any nearer I YELL: “Get the fuck away from me! You get the fuck out of here right now! Goddamn you!!” All delivered with a very angry, I’m-gonna-kill-you demeanor. Sometimes they run away, sometimes they act all indignant. A few initially refused to leave me alone, and I had to resort to REALLY acting crazy (but never enough to land me in jail, at least not yet!) I’ve sucessfully thwarted 2 attempted purse snatchings, 2 attempted assaults, and God only knows what else by being a beeyatch. But probably pissed off a few folks with less malevolent intentions.

    Predators and scammers often prey on younger folks. As I’m getting older and starting to show my wrinkles, this happens less and less.

    • ChilisServer says:

      I never carry a purse. I keep a small wallet with just my cash/DL/cards in it, and keep it in my pocket, attached to my belt with a carabiner. I also wear shirts long enough to cover my belt and pocket areas, so you can’t tell that I even have a wallet in my pocket.

      I also carry a concealed handgun for protection, but have thankfully never been forced to draw it in an attempt to dissuade a potential threat.

      I traveled abroad two summers back, and was glad I had already ditched my purse habits. I was never approached by a potential swindler, despite being a small female and obviously a tourist. If there were any, I guess they could see that I wasn’t clearly carrying anything of value (and I don’t wear jewelry) so I wasn’t a good mark.

      Be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid these bad situations BEFORE they escalate.

  38. samonela says:

    Keep Exacto knives and razor blades in your pockets instead…

    Everybody wins!

  39. Alan_Schezar says:

    Here’s an example of how this scam is done. It’s from a BBC TV show in the UK called ‘The Real Hustle’. The scam is referred to as ‘The Mustard Dip’:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-jqWS7YLuA
    The Real Hustle – The Mustard Dip Scam

  40. Powerlurker says:

    Just spend your vacation in Japan. I know people who’ve accidentally left laptops on a train on the Yamanote line (quite possibly the busiest train line in Japan, which goes in a circle around the middle of Tokyo) and found them the next day sitting in the exact place they accidentally left them.

    • kaleberg says:

      In the 80s losing your wallet in Japan was a hassle. You had to go home and wait for the call so you could tell the finder how he (or she) could return it. I imagine it is much easier with cell phones.

      The closest I have come to losing my wallet was in Venice. I was tired and careless and it dropped out of my pocket. Luckily some guy yelled, “Your wallet”, and pointed to it on the ground. I thanked him. Everything was all there. I’m much more careful now. You can’t always count on a kindly stranger.

  41. Powerlurker says:

    If you take a taxi in a foreign country, make sure the driver turns on his meter.

  42. Wrathernaut says:

    I avoid the scams by making my own dirty shirts at home.

  43. ospreyguy says:

    I’ve traveled the third world a lot and the only time I’ve had an issue other than normal crap was in London.

    Saw a pick pocket in action with the missing pocket liner trick (hand in a jacket pocket but there is an opening to the inside of the jacket so they can reach through…). Victim was someone in our group so I confronted the guy and he started yelling about me trying to rob him. Punched him in the mouth grabbed the wallet and walked away.

    Saw the constable come running up to the guy then I never looked back. Felt very spy cool or something at the time. I didn’t even think about getting myself killed in the process. Once the adrenaline wore off I almost pissed myself. That was stupid, won’t do that again…

  44. CajunGuy says:

    This is where having the right to carry a firearm come in handy. It might come as a surprise, but most would-be thieves and cut-purses would and do think twice about applying their trade on someone who is obviously carrying.

    Of course, this does nothing for those traveling overseas, but I’ll never get taken in New Orleans. I hate the street urchins there.

  45. Chaosium says:

    “Faster than lightning a diverse group of friendly locals want to help, offering to clean your jacket with their very convenient napkins. “

    Really? People are dumb enough to stop for this? That’s crazy.

  46. jcoltrane says:

    Beware the flower sellers in Venice!

    Only time I’ve been (directly) fleeced abroad was as I sat at a cafe table at St. Marks Place and a ballsy flower seller approached the table only to be rebuffed. I only realized later that he had absconded with our camera which had been sitting on the table.

    Damned Pinot Grigio dulled my cat-like reflexes…