Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Everyday Life
Personal Safety

Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers
Men are particularly vulnerable to pickpockets. They should avoid carrying a wallet in their rear trouser pockets. The inside jacket pocket or side trouser pocket is better, especially if the wallet is turned sideways. Wrapping a rubber band around a wallet makes it harder to lift. Remember, pickpockets work silently, and they look like everyone else.

Purse snatchers target women who seem distracted. They may actually cut the straps of a shoulder bag to grab it quickly before running away. Like pickpockets, they may be highly skilled, and indeed may be unthreatening in appearance. Some specialize in silently lifting a woman's wallet from out of her purse or handbag. Others, particularly young criminals, may push a woman down, possibly injuring her, in order to grab the bag in the confusion that results. In no case should a woman lose sight of her purse, even for a moment, by leaving it in a shopping cart or on a store counter.

For both men and women, watch out for crowds and sudden commotions, which are meant to distract you, or if someone drops something in front of you and bends down to pick it up, or if someone bumps into you, or if someone seems to be bringing attention to a possible stain on your clothing by pointing at it. All these are signs that someone, or in fact a team of criminals, may be after your valuables.

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