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by Tumbleweed Smith

Every time we leave the country we are advised to watch for pickpockets in areas where there are large crowds. Travel books and brochures tell travelers not to carry any loose cash, wallets or passports in front pants pockets or in purses without secure locks. A friend of mine has had his pocket picked two different times. Once was on a bus in Budapest during the winter when he was wearing an overcoat. He was lucky. All the perpetrator got was a notebook that had a list of expenses. Another time he was in Rome and had put about 30 dollars worth of Italian currency in his pocket for some walking around cash he had planned to use for lunch and incidentals. Someone came up to him and asked if he needed help finding his way around town. Suddenly my friend noticed he was minus his walking around cash.

Pickpockets are well trained and start learning their trade at an early age. Small children suddenly appear out of nowhere and stand by your side without you noticing them.

My wife took our five-year-old grandson on a train trip from Dallas to Texarkana. While she was buying the tickets at Union Station in Dallas, she put her wallet on the shelf by the ticket office. She was distracted by her grandson who needed a drink of water. When she turned back to the ticket office, her wallet was gone. It took weeks to get the drivers license, credit cards and other items back in order. Luckily she had purchased the tickets and got to take the train ride. A woman nearby saw that she had lost her wallet and gave her a few dollars.

The worst pickpocket incident I know about happened to a young man in India. A woman went up to him in a train station and put a baby in his arms. Since his arms were busy holding the infant and his attention was diverted to it, he didn’t notice when his pockets were picked. He lost his wallet, passport and cash and had to go to the US embassy to start the long procedure to get a new passport. When he reported the incident to police, he was told he should have dropped the baby.

Over the years I have bought some money belts and pouches that hang around the neck underneath a shirt. On my most recent trip out of the country I noticed several men in airports and in cities wearing the pouches on the outside their shirts. That made it convenient to use, but a skilled criminal could cut the cord without the owner being aware of what was happening. I keep mine out of sight. It has pockets for passports, credit cards and cash, things you want to keep and use only for yourself.

I have some travel vests that I use when I leave the country. They have large inside pockets with zippers and I feel secure putting valuables in them. I don’t ever take the vest off and leave it on the back of a chair while I have a meal.

Losing cash, passports and wallets are real downers and could ruin a trip. You don’t want to walk around full of fear about losing your valuables. Put them in a safe place and enjoy your travels.

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