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The season for extra vigilance is upon us, as tourists gear up for coming vacation travel. Already a friend was robbed in Marseille a few weeks ago, her US passport stolen from a room safe (!) in a five-star resort. Criminal gangs target older tourists, and theyâre aware that local authorities canât do much after the fact. Even a consular official said it was useless to report thefts unless a report for insurance is needed. A friend of ours, standing outside the Venezia train station, got her wallet lifted while a supposed vendor was tossing those obnoxious fluorescent plastic blob toys, brushing close to her, and said arrivederci to âŹ150.
Remember that train stations are fertile terrain for pickpockets. The bad guys know everybodyâs passing through. Watch out for shifty types lurking among waiting crowds, and any over-familiar approaches. Ask: do I know you? Keep your bags closed, and tucked under your arm! Be suspicious of distractions, and move away from aggressive peopleâfast. Other danger zones: the Champs-ĂlysĂ©es in Paris and definitely the Louvre, now overrun with snatch-and-grab gangs.
Hereâs a reminder of some of the more common scams and risks to watch for.
âą The ring trick: somebody in front of you picks up a gold ring from the ground, holds it up to you. Yours? Say no! Theyâll try and get you to give them some money for itâlater youâll discover itâs worth nothing.
âą The leather jacket guy: claims heâs a salesman on a business trip. âWant to buy a good quality coat really cheap since youâre such a nice person?â Hold on to your billfold!
âą The bird poop trick: apologetic person spills ketchup on you, maybe says it was the work of a nearby pigeon, pulls out napkin, tries to help you clean it off. While theyâre doing it, they lift your wallet.
âą Swarming gypsy kids: they surround you asking questions, gesturing, making noise. In the pandemonium, they grab for your bag.
The season for crime starts now, and lines for replacement passports at consulates peak in June and July. Donât carry expensive bags unless you want to risk having the bottom slashed. Definitely donât carry your wallet in your back pocket. Consider a good money belt with a strong nylon strap, wear it under your jacket, and above all else, remember what Mom taught you: donât talk to strangers.âStanley Moss, Travel Editor