de Sydney Ramgolam

With unemployment rates so high, it seems idle hands are being put to other uses. Pickpocketing has become a major problem in Madrid as well as other large urban centers. Here are three big tips on how to avoid it happening to you.

Count your money every now and then

1. It may seem like common sense, but always be aware of exactly how much money you carry with you when you go out. Pickpocketing is not all you should be looking out for! Intentionally giving incorrect change–ripping off those who aren’t careful–is also on the rise. Always double check that you’ve been given the correct change and make sure to speak up if you haven’t. Likewise, even if you didn’t buy anything, you should make sure you leave with what you brought, because once you’ve left it behind it’s that much more difficult to get back.

Keep your valuables somewhere secure

2. Keep your valuables somewhere secure. Ladies, this means using purses that fasten or zipper shut. While tote bags may be convenient for carrying all your many knick-knacks, reaching into them and sneaking something out is only made easier by how large and insecure the opening is. On the other hand, you don’t want to use a purse that’s too small either. A thin shoulder strap is harder to hold on to should someone try and yank it away, and far easier to snap too. Gentlemen: unless your back pockets are exceptionally deep, it’s pretty easy to slide a wallet right out of one. Make sure your pockets are deep enough that your wallet isn’t peeking out, or just keep your wallet in a front pocket where at least you can see it at all times.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. In case of emergencies, we all want to carry at least one credit card–just in case! But don’t keep your emergency money with the cash you plan on using frequently. Try keeping a change purse for immediate expenses such as transit or food, and keep your debit or credit card somewhere less accessible. Likewise, try not to carry all your cash with you at the same time. Withdrawing money from ATMs can get expensive and exchange rates aren’t always fare. Don’t carry more on your person than what you actually expect to use.

Your wallet is not all that’s at risk

4. Don’t forget! Your wallet is not all that’s at risk; cell phones, iPods, USB flashdrives, and digital cameras are all small enough to disappear without you noticing. Try not to use your expensive electronics in public, and especially not while traveling alone. If you need to use your phone, try not to speak too loudly so as to draw attention to the fact that you’re using it, and then put it away immediately after. If you’re on a long commute and really want to listen to your iPod, put on a playlist and then keep the device in your pocket rather than in your hand. Another tip is to fasten a wristband or a charm to your device. That way if it has to be out, it’s still physically attached to you; this is especially useful for cameras.

5. Lastly, a pickpocket won’t know you have what you do until you show them. No matter how well concealed or how inaccessible your valuables may seem to you, the moment you check to see that they’re still there is the moment you alert a pickpocket to the location of your valuables. Take the necessary precautions, but remember to relax and not to preoccupy yourself with them!