How to Prevent Serious Cash Losses with a Fake Travel Wallet

12 January 2013
How to Prevent Serious Cash Losses with a Fake Travel Wallet

What is a Fake/Decoy Travel Wallet?

What exactly do we mean by a fake wallet? It’s a decoy – and sometimes called a mugger’s wallet. The purpose of which is to fool a mugger or pickpocket into stealing the fake rather than taking your real wallet.

The theory is this: if you’re ever threatened and told to hand over your wallet, you give up the decoy but your real stash is hidden elsewhere on your person (like in your money belt).

  • If you can toss the fake wallet and run from your mugger, that works.
  • If you have nowhere to go, give them the decoy and hopefully they’ll leave.
  • If they force you to stay while ransacking it, hopefully they’ll be fooled by the ruse and leave. If not, you can hand them the coins in your pocket as a further distraction.

If your fake wallet is pick-pocketed, then the worse that happens is that you learn to be more aware of your surroundings.

Tip: Brush up on your pickpocket facts before your next trip.

Should You Carry a Fake Travel Wallet?

Actually, yes. Every traveler will benefit from carrying a travel wallet that’s a decoy. A decoy wallet is especially useful when you’re traveling – although some folks employ them all the time – because it forces you to keep only the minimal or a days’ worth of cash in the decoy and keep everything else safely tucked into your money belt.

Thief stealing a wallet from a travelers' backpack

The most common form of identity theft happens when someone uses another person’s personal information for financial gain. This is often what happens when a purse, backpack, or wallet gets stolen.

The theft of a wallet is unnerving at best, but it’s also a huge burden on the victim. The burden is even worse when you’re traveling and need to make a police report and notify banks, credit cards, etc.

How Do You Make a Fake Travel Wallet?

Let’s start with what you should take OUT of your wallet before any trip. These are the things you should remove from your real travel wallet:

  • Debit cards – the fewer carry the fewer you have to cancel and your cash stays safer
  • Social security card – when do you ever need this in your wallet? Take it out now – it’s the most risky one to lose.
  • Checks – if you have to write a check, take one and leave the rest behind
  • Deposit slips – these have the same information as your checks and can unlock your bank to thieves
  • Gas station and ATM receipts – these look like trash but they have bits of usable information to an informed thief, including the last 4 digits of your card
  • Store credit cards – unless you know the store is where you’re traveling, you won’t need these

Now, let’s move on to making your decoy travel wallet.

Traveler adding cash to a muggers wallet

Top 6 Components of a Fake, or Decoy, Travel Wallet

When you’re putting together a fake wallet, it’s got to look real enough and yet prevent a thief from accessing your funds, selling your identity on the black market, and worse.

Here are the top components that make the best fake travel wallets:

  1. A worn look – use your old wallets or buy a well-used one.
  2. A picture or two – it doesn’t have to be a photo of someone you know. The neighbor’s dog, a random kid or two, someone who looks like they may be important to you. They all work.
  3. A local card of some kind like a library card. Tell the librarian you lost it and get a new one. Put the new one in your real wallet and the deactivated one in the fake travel wallet. Voila!
  4. A deactivated credit card or bank card (or both – even better).
  5. A grocery list is a good addition.
  6. Some real cash (it’s up to you what you think will work and hopefully the thief won’t stick around long enough to count it and demand more).

Now that you’ve got your fake wallet and your real wallet, keep them far apart. Put the real wallet in a safe place, like a money belt, or an interior zipped or locked pocket.

Here’s how a Fake Travel Wallet is Useful

Remember, a pickpocket is just looking for any wallet so make sure that’s the one in the back pocket of your jeans or the outside pocket of your purse or backpack.

A mugger wants something that looks like a wallet. Give it to them. You won’t be giving up what you really need, which is your travel cash, identification, etc.

Just don’t look smug or enthusiastic when you give it up! In fact, you should probably grumble, frown, and complain a bit.

A Quick Word to the Women Travelers

We’ve recommended before that you leave expensive or precious things behind when you travel. The designer purse is a good example of this. By carrying a basic purse (it should be a bag that’s work across the body and in front), then the bag is less likely to be snatched from you by someone passing by.

Person pickpocketing a woman's bag

If your fake wallet is also in that basic purse, but your primary travel cash, documents, and passport are in your money belt worn underneath your clothing, then you can hand the purse and fake wallet over without too much remorse. You might lose today’s worth of cash and some other odd items, but it’s likely worth it.

After all, you know the rest is safe. Your favorite lipstick? Put it in your coat or jeans pocket instead.

Damian Tysdal

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.

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.