It’s Pickpocket Season. Here’s how to Avoid being a Victim

 It’s Pickpocket Season. Here’s how to Avoid being a Victim
Jan 12, 2016 By Cynthia Lopez ,

Pickpocketing is common in China. It occurs most often during Chinese New Year as well as the weeks leading up to and after the holiday. Many Chinese people, who live and work in big cities, travel far and long to visit family members in their hometowns during the major holiday. Whether to embark on the journey home or not can be dependent on one’s personal finances—for the lower classes in China it can be the ultimate determining factor. 

So what petty crime do we see more of during Chinese New Year? Pickpocketing; numerous incidents of people being robbed of their valuables occur throughout the country. Don’t fall victim to these pickpockets. Be alert and prepared for pickpockets, and most importantly be watchful of your valuables. Here some tips on how to avoid being a victim to thievery:

First and foremost, be prepared in case vital documents get stolen. If you’re carrying important items with you, such as your passport, make photocopies of the passport and your residence permit/visa and leave the copies at home as a backup in the event that you do lose your passport. Also, make sure to keep your passport in a safe spot when travelling with it. Know where your home’s country Embassy is in the event that you lose your passport and need to be issued a new one. The more prepared you are, the easier it’ll be to deal with this kind of situation.

Be vigilant of others around you. Pickpockets will often use children or pregnant women as decoys; and they often work in teams, so be alert of those around you. Keep in mind to be extra cautious in crowded areas as well. Someone could easily bump into you and snatch your wallet without you even noticing. This one should be obvious, but don’t walk down creepy, dark alleyways. If a random stranger tries talking to you, firmly holding onto your purse or bag. Remember to be extra cautious in tourist spots. Tourist areas are filled with pickpockets just waiting for you to put down your guard or get distracted by some tourist attraction.

Keep your valuables safe:

• Take care of your personal belongings. Keep important items in front of you or held tightly in your hand. Keep your wallet in your front pocket; putting a rubber band around your wallet will make it harder for a thief to grab it without you noticing. Keep your purse or bag in front of you at all times.

• Put your purse or bag strap across your chest. Don’t leave it resting on just one shoulder. There are been many incidents of thieves riding by women and yanking their purses from them as they speed away on their scooter. Having it across your chest will make it harder for thieves to snatch it off you. Also, make sure to tighten the strap, and don’t have the bag dangling on your back, keep it in front of you.

• Buy a neck pouch, decoy wallet, or money belt—especially, if you’re doing plenty of travelling in China during Chinese New Year. Usually pickpockets look for victims with an expensive phone, a wallet or purse. This is where keeping a decoy wallet would be useful, and purchasing either a money belt or neck pouch for your money and important items would keep you safe from having your valuables stolen.

• Don’t flash expensive items or money. If you don’t have to take out your brand new iPhone, don’t. The latest iPhone can be worth a whole month’s salary for some people, so it’s best to be cautious when using your nice phone in public areas. Another point to note concerns dealing with money in public areas. Don’t count your money in public, especially if you’re carrying a lot of it. And if you don’t need to carry large amounts of cash with you, then leave the cash at home. Only carry minimal amounts of cash. Leave expensive or important items that you don’t need with you at home.

• Grab your credit card, money or other valuables as soon as they’re handed back to you, when using an ATM or making a purchase. Thieves who have been eyeing you could easily swoop up next to you when you’re not looking and take your money, passport, or train tickets from right under your nose. When you’re using an ATM, avoid taking out large sums of cash where others can see.

The last tip doesn’t necessarily fall under the pickpocketing category, however, it does happen often in China and it can be considered part of the overall topic of theft. If you have a bicycle, scooter or car, park it in a safe area. Park your car, scooter or bike in areas where there are other cars, scooters or bikes. Park cars preferably in safely guarded car parks. Don’t leave any valuable items in your car or scooter, especially in plain sight. If a bulgur sees a valuable item in your car through the window, they can easily break into your car and steal it.  Things to invest in, when owning a bike, scooter or car, are heavy-duty locks and alarms. Additionally, I’d advice to not spend too much money on a bicycle—the cheaper, the better.

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Keywords: how to avoid pickpockets pickpockets in China


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I do look so cheap, that they don't even bother to think I may have more than 20 in pocket :-)

Jan 18, 2016 13:56 Report Abuse



Love the replies so far here. Please be a bit careful during this time period especially because robbers are far more aggressive before Spring Festival than other periods. Young men need to bring home loot to please the folks and buy the dowry for marriage. You cannot imagine the tremendous pressure of young fellas today due to old traditions that one must "buy" his way into a family, the temptation to steal is very high. Top that off with the fact that this is the time when Chinese shop, go to the bank to get red pocket cash for the kids, and travel, it is really the time we must be most protective................ I always avoid large public crowds even on a normal day. If you see that clown juggling an extra ball in the square that he does not normally toss about, if there is a public spectacle of a man proposing to his girlfriend by placing candles and roses on the ground, if a man is tossing a severe beat-down on his wife while the rest of the world watches, this is not the time to become the hero of the social media. Avoid losing your focus or that will be when thieves are most likely to pounce. Watch yourself on escalators and elevators. Keep your things in front of you while exiting buses, I have seen sticky hands snagging loot from purses not properly zipped or buttoned as the victims exit the bus, never thinking about their environmental surroundings. I have even seen thieves sneak up behind couples walking and talking on not so busy sidewalks and take phones and wallets from backpacks and open purses while the boyfriend just happily chatters away without even paying attention to the man behind him who is so close that one good elbow to the nose would stun him in his tracks. Never go to a suspect ATM, sometimes thieves tamper with them and worse yet, if the area is not safe looking or dark or difficult to see who is around you, do not get cash at all. On buses, move about as much as you can, always twist and turn to keep would be thieves on edge, make yourself less attractive by being less easy. Do not walk in dark alleyways or near buildings and street corners where people seem strange. When coming to a stop light to cross the zebra stripes, be extra aware of who is around you and keep your belongings in front of your stomach because once everyone starts moving, that is the best place to be taken as cars, motorbikes, and running people create a sensory overload where safety is the priority here. Keep your phones and wallets in your coat inner pocket and leave a few jiao and singles or a five and a ten in your pants pocket in the case of a robbery, you can fool them into thinking you have less. In addition, keeping small change away from the wallet is convenient for paying for the bus, taxis, and snacks or drinks without having to fumble through your bigger bills in the wallet. Of course if they ask for your mobile, there isn't much you can really do about it but make sure you lock it and have an internet tracker, iPhone offers this feature, because sometimes police are able to help even in this country, I have personally known successful stories. Not mentioned are the hotels. Do not leave your valuables in the hotel. If you travel, leave anything you do not need to be wearing at your apartment and only take what you want to take. If going to scenic sites, don't bring a laptop, keep a pad handy and keep it with you at all times. Make sure your passport is in your inner pocket and if you do not have it, put it in your pants pocket and keep a pack of tissues above the passport to deter thieves from an easy grab. If you cannot do this and must carry a purse or backpack, invest in a belt money pouch which can also hold your passport and tuck it under your belt between your pants and stomach. It might feel a bit tight but it is worth it and you will see those sites without fear of losing your vital documents or cash......................... Finally, if you suspect or are certain of a thief in your vicinity, do not confront. Thieves rarely are alone and they do keep blades on them and if one of their own is in danger, so are you. Nothing is ever 100% thief proof but if you make yourself difficult to take from and if you play smart on the streets, generally thieves would prefer to attack easier prey. Best wishes for the Spring Break and keep safe all.

Jan 17, 2016 09:48 Report Abuse



Try and rob me Chinese man and see what happens next!

Jan 14, 2016 15:35 Report Abuse



Stop promoting pickpocket culture! Don't teach Westerners how to not be robbed. Teach Chinese not to steal!

Jan 14, 2016 15:14 Report Abuse



don't travel or go out, especially during holidays

Jan 13, 2016 08:39 Report Abuse