Recently over 100 members of the staff at Paris’ world-famous Louvre museum walked out in response to concerns that they were simply unable to protect themselves and museum guests against a recently high number if aggressive and even belligerent pickpockets. The museum was closed for a time.
While the official statement from the Louvre upon reopening was that pickpockets were a growing problem, staff members had simply grown tired of being not only the victims of pickpocketing themselves, but also of having been spat on, insulted, threatened and kicked by those discovered in the act of picking pockets.
The US Embassy in Paris indicates on their website that the most likely places to get pick pocketed are major tourist sites and that Americans should be particularly alert to thieves in those places. Most pickpockets work in groups and are often adolescents – both boys and girls – since it’s extremely hard for minors to be jailed in France.
Before your next trip, it’s a good idea to brush up on your pickpocket facts and skills.
While it’s not clear which techniques are being commonly employed by the pickpockets frequenting the Louvre, be aware that there are many techniques pickpockets around the world use to rip off travelers. Here are some of the most common ploys:
It’s likely that the pickpockets lurking in the Louvre used some of these techniques, but the most likely one is simply getting very close – to look at a painting, for example – and picking the pocket of a visitor distracted by the art.
See How Not to Get Robbed on the Street in a Foreign Country for more information.
In addition to the distractions pickpockets use to confuse you or temporarily divert your attention, there are a few ways you can spot a potential pickpocket. While it’s impossible to generalize, there are a few signs to look for:
Remember that pickpockets like to blend in with a crowd. Take note of those who look like they blend in a little too much while watching everyone else. A pickpocket will often take their time picking their target and this may require them to do loops – going and coming back to the same place – while looking for something.
Unlike a mugger, a pickpocket is typically non-confrontational and making it clear that you see them and are aware of them is often enough to make them move on to an easier target.
See How to Avoid Getting Mugged While Traveling for more information.
While there are all sorts of pickpockets with varying levels of skill, many simply watch for people who’ve been naive and left themselves vulnerable. The key is to maintain a low profile, make yourself a difficult target, and remain vigilant.
See Safe Travelers Love Money Belts for more information.
Not only do you want to avoid being pickpocketed at all, you also want to limit the level of your loss if you are the victim of a pickpocket.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.