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I was browsing through the endless list of travel tips I’ve been compiling when I came upon one I’ve been meaning to write for ages. The short story: If Rick Steves, a professional traveler, can get pickpocketed, you can too.

The long(er) story: I’ve known Rick for a long time, I’ve been fortunate to share the same stage with him at travel shows, have broken bread with him numerous times and have been a guest on his nationally syndicated radio show a few times. Rick is a great guy who calls it like is and is not afraid to acknowledge when he makes a mistake.

We all make mistakes and when you travel, it’s even easier to do so, since you’re often out of your element, most likely tired, awed by the scenery, your mind is preoccupied and you’re just excited to be traveling. The latter couldn’t be any more true after the year we’ve all just had.

As happy as you are on the road, unfortunately, there are some people who are even happier … thieves. These poor souls come in all shapes and sizes, from little kids to well-dressed grandpas and everything in between. There are all kinds of tricks these predators use, from just bumping into you and grabbing your wallet out of your pocket or purse to full-on mugging you. The latter is very rare but it does happen occasionally like it did to one of my writers back in 2009 in Barcelona. FYI: Barcelona is notorious for pickpockets so be even more on guard there.

RELATED: Why You Should Wear a Money Belt When You Travel

Before I go any further, I should note that the point of this tip isn’t to scare anyone. I would guesstimate that 99% of the people in the world are good but the 1% get all the headlines. And the news used to scare the hell out of me, which was one of the many reasons I didn’t travel out of the country until I was 21.

Of course, once I did, there was no turning back and fortunately, I’ve now been all over the world, many times over, and have never had an incident. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m lucky or if I have a sixth sense but I’m always aware of what’s going on around me. I always stand in the back of an elevator, I sit facing the door of a restaurant, I never put my phone or my wife’s purse on the table or on a vacant chair when dining al fresco … the list goes on. But in short, I almost always feel safer outside of the USA than I do at home, which which is something I never thought would happen until I left the country. I know it’s sad, but it’s true.

That being said, here’s Rick’s experience: “Thieves know where the crowds are — and where the tourists are — and they are very, very deft at their work. A petite bump and a slight nudge getting off the Métro in Paris and bam — wallet gone. OK, I admit, it’s my fault…I wasn’t wearing my money belt. And it cost me. I went back to the hotel, referred to the emergency section in the appendix of our Paris guidebook, and set about canceling my credit cards. I lost my driver’s license, two credit cards, and some money.”

It sounds like Rick had his wallet in his back pocket, which is major rookie mistake. Rick recommends wearing a money belt, which is a great idea as long as would-be thieves can’t tell it’s a money belt, you have it tucked under your clothes or it’s slash-proof (so someone can’t just cruise by on a scooter and slice it off your waist). The same goes for purses, which is why I recommend something with a wire reinforcement that makes it slash-proof, like this one.

BTW: My wife once made the mistake of putting her passport in her back pocket on a bike tour of Tallin, Estonia. No one pickpocketed her but it did fall out and almost ruined our trip because our cruise ship, departing in a few hours, could not allow her back on to sail to our next port (here’s the remarkable story. NOTE: Always treat your passport as if it’s $5,000 in cash because that’s about how much it’s worth on the black market.

Although I don’t use a money belt, I might start after writing this tip because I do have one in my bin of travel gear. Check out some money belt options here.

While we’re on the subject of safety, I recently interviewed Kevin Coffey (you can listen to the interview on my podcast or watch it on YouTube). He’s a travel security expert, who’s been featured numerous times on Oprah. Kevin spent several decades as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and was responsible for the creation of LAPD’s LAX Airport Crimes Investigation detail. There, he led the investigation of crimes committed against travelers at LAX airport, surrounding hotels and car rental agencies. Kevin taught me numerous tips but none greater than what he calls his “What If?” Kevin’s tip is for everyone to do these two things.


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14 Comments On "Rick Steves' Got Pickpocketed In Paris -- Here's How To Prevent It From Happening To You"
  1. Cindy Bertram|

    Terrific insights Johnny Jet !!! Definitely adds another dimension as far as traveling safe !!

  2. Deborah|

    Thanks so much for this story. I got pickpocketed in Naples and lost about 20 euros cash (my credit cards were in a separate place). I felt pretty stupid but now I feel better, if it can happen to Rick then it can happen to anyone.

  3. Spiney|

    Thanks for guiding me towards the right path. You are a fantastic mentor that is worthy of emulation. You deserve a big thank you from me.

  4. Bill Walker|

    We lost our passports on the metro in Paris to pickpockets. Since then we have followed the advice given by people at the U-S Embassy in Paris. Never carry your passport unless you are crossing a border. Just keep it in a safe place but don’t carry bit around. What is a safe place? Depending on where you are, the answer to that question can get interesting.

    1. Johnny Jet|


  5. Pat P|

    Sir I wonder why we have to go thru a long opinion etc to read two lines that R Steve was pickpocketed. Can we not have the news a la USA today ?

    1. Paul Jacobelli|

      There are good and sad reasons for that. The good reasons are setting the scene / context and that there are probably several resource links in the article that are useful in addressing the topic. The sad reason is that if you want new readers in that vast internet audience to discover your articles you have to write for the Google algorithm. That means more words than you would normally want to write. This is the world we live in.

  6. Janet Marble|

    A few years ago my wallet was pickpocketed in Paris, probably when I was on the Metro. I also canceled my credit cards and ordered a new Driver’s License and Health Insurance card that same day. The day I got home, in my mailbox was a letter from the Paris Police Department (this theft was not reported to them). Someone had turned in my wallet, which had all my credit cards, etc., and was only missing the cash. I sent the Police the requested Euros and they mailed it all back to me. I was told that if someone finds your wallet, they can drop it in any mailbox in the world and it will be delivered to the local Police Station who will try to return it to you.

  7. Barbara|

    I noticed in your article that you rode in the back of the elevator. Why is that? As a solo female traveler I thought it was safer to ride by the buttons to press the emergency button if need be. Which is safer?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi! Standing in the back thwarts off pick pocketers. I hadn’t heard the tip about standing near the buttons but makes total sense. Thanks

  8. Douglas Lock|

    My pickpocket story. A few years ago I was on the crowded Metro in Athens, Greece travelling from my hotel to the Acropolis. My money, 80 Euros and about $200 US, was in my wallet inside my front pants pocket. The pocket was zipped closed and a velcro flap was fastened over the pocket and covering the zipper. There was a beautiful young lady, professionally dressed, standing very close to me; not unusual given how crowded the car was. I felt down to my pocket and thought it strange that my zipper was undone. I checked the wallet and saw that all of my money was there. I closed the zipper and re-fastened the velcro and held my hand over my pocket. In a few minutes the beautiful girl’s pubic area was pressing against my hand; not unusual given how crowed the car was but uncomfortable for me so I brought me hands up to my waist level. In a few more minutes my stop came up and I stepped off the Metro, felt down at my pocket and realized that my zipper was undone again. My wallet was still in my pocket but the 80 Euros was gone while the $200 US was all there. That beautiful lady undid the velcro, unzipped my pocket, took out my wallet, removed only the 80 Euros and put my wallet back all without me being aware – even though I was being cautious.

  9. Robert Lemon|

    A fool-proof solution I have used in risky places is an elastic security sock that slips up on the
    calf under a man’s trousers. I would slip it on before putting on my shoes in the morning. Then, if I were riding the Rome Metro or waiting in line for the Louvre, my wallet, cash and cards were always safe. I never had a petty thief stoop to conquer.

  10. Cristina|

    Hi Johnny, Check these clothes out to deter pickpocketing! I got a couple pair for the guys in my family! They even have some for women. They really work! They like to post success stories!
    (PS, btw, am not affiliated with this company) :-)

  11. Scott Jordan|

    You can always use a which has a guaranty against pickpocketers.

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