Part of any good security strategy is to learn from what the other side you’re trying to protect yourself from is doing. You can’t always avoid an elite pickpocket or completely prevent getting robbed at knife point – but what you can do though is minimize your losses by thinking like the criminal who wants to steal from you.
Your personal security plan needs to have many legs to stand on as well as distractions to keep your real valuables safe.
1. Distribute Your Money
Always distribute your valuables in several places when you travel. This include both on your person, in you bag, and your hostel or hotel room. Never keep all of your money in the same place. You can hide some emergency cash in deep in your socks, in the side of your underwear or in a bra and in your front pocket as well. While you may get robbed or pickpocketed you’ll have minimized your loses.
For extreme circumstances do the same and have some money hidden in your hotel room too. Some in the safe if there is one and inside of a dirty sock in your laundry. Have kids? Their toys make great hiding spots.
2. Use A Decoy
Your wallet is the first target of any pickpocket so make it where you keep your least valuable stuff. Put in a small (but not tiny amount) of money along with some of those inactive (or expired) credit cards you get in the mail. If you don’t get any in the mail cancel your current card and request a new one from your bank – instant decoy. Include a student ID or some other photo identification with no personal information on it. A wallet without an ID might give you away.
Make sure your wallet doesn’t have sentimental value and never keep important things in a big purse – they are very easy targets.
3. Set a Trap
A decoy can be a way to potentially set a trap for a pickpocket. It won’t work in all places but if your bank offers a free checking account or credit card with no fees and is free open one up. Keep this card (with no money in the account) in your decoy wallet. If it’s stolen call the credit card company or bank right away to let them know.
In most countries the companies will keep close track to see where and if that card is used. If there happens to be a camera at the first place the pickpocket tries to use the card you may be in luck.
4. Make Your Things Ugly
There are several techniques on how to
Oh, and that iPhone – be careful where you flash it. If you’re traveling in a place and worried about the area bring along the cheapest, oldest Nokia you can find and save the Twittering until you can get back to the hotel.
5. Set Up A Camera System
Hotel rooms can be vulnerable spots for your stuff and not all come with safes. You can though use an old smartphone as a security camera to monitor your things and get an alert if anything is disturbed. Also, while we’re at it, always use a “Do Not Disturb” sign and only have your room cleaned while you’re in it (and have packed away your valuables beforehand).
Be Creative and Add More Legs
There are plenty more ways to be shadier than thieves – be creative! Unique hiding spots, zipping your backpack like this, and other tricks are fun to come up with and there are almost an unlimited number of them. The important thing it to have more than one self-security plan and have your strategy stand on many legs so you always have a backup or two.
This is an updated version of a post I originally shared for a now-defunct travel blog in 2009.