How To Spot A Pickpocket

Know what to look out for and avoid losing your stuff.

Heading overseas for a well-deserved holiday provides the opportunity to escape the rigours of day-to-day life, take in new cultures, visit historic landmarks, and experience the warmth and friendliness of the locals. And, when it comes to visiting a city as compelling and packed with iconic monuments as Barcelona, getting away to this majestic city represents a truly unforgettable experience.

Like anything, however, travelling overseas offers an element of risk, not least when it comes to being a potential victim of crime. Barcelona, for example, may well be one of the most alluring cities in Europe, but pickpockets operate in the city, preying on unsuspecting tourists that don't follow the simple steps to avoid being targeted. So how can you avoid being the object of attention from such petty criminals during your time in the city? And what should you look out for when trying to spot a pickpocket in Barcelona? Below we take a look at some of the common traits of pickpockets and steps to take to avoid becoming a victim.

They Look Like You and I

When it comes to identifying a pickpocket, there is one obvious stumbling block: there are no easily identifiable characteristics of which to be aware. Male or female, old or young, there is no discernible profile for a pickpocket, aside from possessing the guile of an opportunist and the deftness of touch necessary to avoid suspicion. An experienced pickpocket will be able to blend into a crowd effortlessly, and can appear and disappear in seconds. This is obviously a major problem when trying to protect yourself and your possessions, but there are traits you should be aware of, and means of protecting yourself during your time in the city.

Pay Attention to your Surroundings

While a pickpocket may not have a particular 'look' about them, they certainly share an ability to focus attention on the items of others. If you find yourself in a crowded area and are receiving undue attention from others, ensure you try to follow their gaze. Pickpockets will always be looking for an easy target, so whether that's your handbag or rucksack, back pocket or the mobile phone in your hand, being aware of what others around you can see and are focusing on is essential.

More adventurous and confident thieves, meanwhile, have a tendency to establish a rapport with their target before they strike. It may be that a stranger begins a conversation on the street, using gentle bodily contact to at first appear harmless and therefore lower suspicion when they next touch you to lift an item from your person. What may seem harmless could well be nothing but a scouting mission, so be wary and try to discern where their attention truly is. While it's human nature to want to trust others that we meet, it's important you hold a degree of suspicion when strangers seem overly familiar.

Busy, Crowded Areas

Of course, for a pickpocket to strike, it pays to target unsuspecting travellers in an area where jockeying for position and exposure to others is commonplace. In Barcelona, some of the most crowded and bustling areas of the city - Las Ramblas, metro stations, museums, bars and restaurants, etc. - are prime areas in which pickpockets operate.

When travelling to such areas of the city, you should be on the lookout for those that appear to be sticking close to others, have a tendency to bump into you, and whom will often reappear in sight during your time in the area; in such instances, they may well be targeting you or simply scouring crowds for other targets.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself

It pays to keep your wits about you and use common sense when trying to avoid pickpockets during your time in Barcelona. In addition, you can follow a number of simple tips to keep pickpockets from relieving you of your personal belongings. From investing in a travel money card to buying a sensible bag, staying away from prying eyes when counting money and wearing your bag facing towards you, there is much you can do to keep potential thieves from targeting you during your holiday.

For more tips and advice on how to stay safe while abroad, check out our video and helpful guide - 'How To Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona'.

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