I think we have all heard about tourists being robbed while on vacation abroad. I was warned about this when we went to Italy, Paris and Spain. There are many methods that thieves use to rob American tourists, but the one I experienced in Spain really takes the cake.
I was prepared when visiting Spain. I had a copy of my passport and driver’s license in the hotel safe, carried minimal money and one credit card on the streets, and was diligent about how I carried my purse and didn’t go out late at night. Unfortunately, my traveling companion was not as diligent.
We were sitting at an outdoor café in Madrid on a beautiful, sunny October day having lunch with my friend’s daughter and her friend, who were doing a semester abroad in a nearby town. I would never have believed this could happen in broad daylight, but it did. We all got duped and it wasn’t until the perpetrator was long gone that we realized my friends wallet was stolen out of her purse even though she had it on her lap and her hand over it! To make us feel even worse, we all sat there while it was happening and none of us saw it. Apparently the hand is quicker than the eye—in this case four pairs of eyes!
While we sat having our leisurely lunch, a woman wearing a knitted poncho approached our table and pointed to the bread basket in the center of our table. She “posed” as a beggar looking for food. First, we ignored her but she wasn’t going away. She moved in closer to the table and then actually touched the bread. So we all said, “take it”, but she wasn’t done yet. Next thing she picks up a piece of bread and puts it right up close to my friends face causing her to lift her hands up and push it away. That was all the time she needed to unsnap my friend’s purse and pull out her wallet, tuck it under her poncho and flee.
It wasn’t until my friend put her hand on her purse a few minutes later that she realized she had been robbed. We were all dumbfounded. How could this have happened in broad daylight with four people watching! But it did, and they are pros who have done this many times and have it down to a science.
What could we have done differently that may have prevented this crime? First, my friend should not have had her wallet full of cash, her license, and all her credit cards with her on the streets of Madrid (or any big city overseas). Carry as little as possible when touring the city. Secondly, don’t sit at the outmost area in an outdoor café in a crowded area where it will be more tempting for a robber to steal and escape quickly.
Here are some other tips that can help you avoid a similar situation:
- Don’t wear expensive watches or jewelry while touring
- Men should not have their wallets in their back pocket
- Look as unassuming as possible, they can spot an American a mile away
- If someone suspicious approaches you, get away from them as quickly as possible
- Make sure your camera is around your neck and secured
- Don’t wear your purse over your shoulder where it can be quickly snatched
- Leave all valuables in the hotel safe
- Beware of groups of children who approach you in a pack—often a distraction to catch you off guard so someone else can rob you
- Be alert to your surroundings
- Leave medicines at the hotel
- Bring an extra pair of glasses
- If confronted, don’t fight. Give up your valuables.
Traveling abroad is a wonderful experience, so don’t let your trip be spoiled by having an unfortunate experience like my friends.