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Open season on European tourists


April 15, 2014/11.31

Hugh Llewelyn/Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

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 they’re aware that local authorities can’t 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 €150.
   Remember that train stations are fertile terrain for pickpockets. The bad guys know everybody’s 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 people—fast. Other danger zones: the Champs-Élysées in Paris and definitely the Louvre, now overrun with snatch-and-grab gangs.
   Here’s a reminder of some of the more common scams and risks to watch for.

• The ring trick: somebody in front of you picks up a gold ring from the ground, holds it up to you. Yours? Say no! They’ll try and get you to give them some money for it—later you’ll discover it’s worth nothing.
• The leather jacket guy: claims he’s a salesman on a business trip. ‘Want to buy a good quality coat really cheap since you’re such a nice person?’ Hold on to your billfold!
• 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 they’re doing it, they lift your wallet.
• 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. Don’t carry expensive bags unless you want to risk having the bottom slashed. Definitely don’t 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: don’t talk to strangers.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor

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Lucire / Paris / society / travel / Volante
Filed by Lucire staff

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