How to Pickpocket

June 24, 2013 — 10 Comments
Kuta Beach, Bali is full of people trying to get some money out of you... but most of them are at least ethical!

Kuta Beach, Bali is full of people trying to get some money out of you… but most of them are at least ethical!

As we walked the beaches of Bali, we were swamped with requests of “surf lessons mister?” or “buy a drink?”. As annoying as this got, it became a little more acceptable after we experienced how others get by.

We were walking between tourist malls when we saw two young boys peddling something on the side of the street. When we got closer, we saw the two boys swarm the young European couple in front of us with some small trinkets in their hands and making lots of noise.

If our innocence for the young kids had previously blocked our perception of what was actually happening, it became clear when we saw the younger boy crowd up behind the couple and try to stick his hand in lady’s purse! Oh yes, these were professional pickpockets at the age of 8 and 10. It was a sad situation but taught a valuable lesson to me; mainly, how to pickpocket!

Here’s how to pickpocket:

1. Start with a diversion

The kids used the trinket as their diversion to try and give the initial impression of making a little honest money. They held the trinket up so it was where the tourists eyes went first. To be successful, you need to make sure the victim is distracted and doesn’t see the pickpocket coming.

2. Overwhelm the senses

This is the important part. The only way you’ll be able to pickpocket is if you’re able to overwhelm the victim’s senses so they won’t be able to feel the hands reaching into their pockets.

A combination of actions are required to get the full sensory overload. Ideally, the victim should be in a busy and noisy location that will take care of all of the “sense” elements. If you don’t have that, you should proceed to make a lot of chatter and noise, which the mini pickpockets did.

However, that alone isn’t enough. To fully overwhelm the senses, we need to add the element of touch. The two young boys did this by getting right up into the tourists faces and bodies and pressing themselves up against them. Some kids will even use pieces of cardboard to press against people to engage the senses as much as possible – this also helps to mask their hands which is another plus. The more touching, the more likely the victims won’t feel what’s actually happening!

3. Have your way

Now that the senses are overwhelmed, you should be able pickpocket and explore as much as needed to get some good stuff.

Luckily for the tourists, they noticed what was happening and shooed the little kids away. We would’ve said something as well, but I needed research for this post so I didn’t want to :). Also, when we walked by I raised my finger to them and scolded them with a mean “No!” – that really got them!

All joking aside, it’s sad what they’ve resorted to just so they can eat and get by.

Watching closely for pickpockets... (not really)

Watching closely for pickpockets… (not really)

Did you know someone is using the same pickpocket tactics on you all of the time? No, I’m not talking about pickpockets on the train or your professional pickpocket kids – I’m talking about businesses!

The most obvious examples of businesses that use the pickpocket techniques are stores, malls and casinos. Stores and malls use the same strategies of overwhelming the senses through pleasant atmospheres, delightful music, and lots of diversions such as discount signs and advertisements or bright and shiny displays. I guess they don’t touch you physically like the pickpockets, but many people are obviously impacted mentally by them.

Casinos use all of the strategies above, but they also have the advantage of risk/reward. I wish I could say I’ve never been affected by the casino’s strategies, but then I’d be lying. I’m not a big gambler, but I do enjoy blackjack or penny slots every once in a while… and I definitely feel pickpocketed when I leave!

It’s important to have your wits about you when you enter these other “retail” pickpocket places as well as real pickpocket situations. The easiest way is to avoid the places where it happens, but life wouldn’t be as fun that way! Once you take control of your money, you can have some leeway and intentionally put yourself in situations that are risky but also fun.

Vendor Stalls around Bali

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10 responses to How to Pickpocket

  1. When we travel in other parts of the world, we realize how wealthy we are, in more ways than one. I prefer to give someone some money than to have my pocket picked. I’ve learned to be prepared with change in some places.

    • Leora – it’s such a challenge that we’re going through as well as we visit some of these extremely poor SE Asian countries. You want to reward the people who are doing the right things and working hard so they know that’s how they’ll make the most… and hopefully not resort to pickpocketing.

  2. My time in the Philippines was the worst for stuff like this. It was really bad when you went to the money changers. Swarms of children would flock to your freshly changed currency, looking for pesos. If you did it often enough you would soon recognize the faces of those who surrounded you.

    • Jon – we’ve noticed the same thing in some of the small cities we’re in – day after day it’s the same people and kids begging. It’s such a double-edged sword because you want to help, but at the same time when people give them money it just inspires them to beg more.

  3. You don’t need to go to a foreign country to have your pocket picked. It’s happened to me in New York. Pickpockets are extremely talented. They are not so obvious as the boys you mention. Now if only they would channel that skill into meaningful work!

    • So true Jeannette – I’m sure you learn a lot of things about people when you’re a professional pickpocket… they’d probably be pretty good at sales if you could trust them 😉

  4. What an amazing experience for you all around. Sadly pickpockets are everywhere. Knowing what to do and how tp protect yourself is a good skill to have.

    I loved the video and all that it shows. It gave me the feeling of being there with you. Thank you for sharing all of this. It is such a joy for me to see where you are and what you see. 🙂

    • Hey Susan – I don’t think we even realize half of the things we see until Jocelyn puts the video together and we watch it later! I’m quite lucky to have her 🙂

  5. This brings to mind the humor essay by David Sedaris. In “Picka Pocketoni” from his collection Me Talk Pretty Someday, a French couple mistakes him for a pickpocket, and then talks badly about him, not knowing he can understand. It’s turning of the tables type of piece.

  6. I suspect that most people really don’t understand when they are warned about pick pockets. Until you experience it yourself, you really don’t get it. What bothers me most is not the pick pockets themselves, but the fact that they have to do it to survive.

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