Pickpockets are everywhere, so don't make it so easy for them

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Sep 23 2019 09:21 AM

The first time I fell victim to a pickpocket, I admit I didn’t have much to lose but it still felt like I lost everything. I was in college and paying for the Ikot jeepney ride in UP Diliman when I realized my wallet was missing. Shocked, I started sobbing and I remember I was sitting next to the driver then. He didn’t know what to do with me and kindly said I should not worry about paying the fare. He also handed me a P10 bill (yes it was still paper money that time) when I got off at the College of Arts and Letters and said he hoped that it would be enough to get me home.

But I still had three more classes in two different buildings so I couldn’t go home just yet. When I got to my last class at the College of Mass Communication, the lady who cleans the premises rushed to me (it helps to have friends not only in high places). She said she fished my wallet out of the water drum in the ladies’ comfort room. The soaked wallet had all my student ID and two library cards but no money. 

The next time my wallet was fished out of my bag by a pickpocket, I was standing in line in a fast food restaurant checking out the menu board. I sensed something was wrong so I checked my bag and confirmed it was lighter because my wallet with all my cash, photos of my toddlers, ATM card, credit cards, driver’s license and many loyalty cards was missing. It took me a week to replace all that was lost, and this time, even the wallet was fair game. I got nothing back.

I wish I could say there were only these two times but sadly, when you commute on a daily basis for more than 10 years, you are vulnerable. One time, two robbers rode our jeepney and all passengers were asked to surrender their valuables. Their knives convinced me to do just that so there went another wallet and cash. Another time, my cellular phone also had to be sacrificed along with all my contacts.

Before you start thinking I never learn, I actually did – and in every encounter, I had less to lose. Here are some ways you can make it harder for the pickpocket to literally run away with your valuables.

#1 Less is best.

While it can be convenient to have everything you could possibly need in your wallet or bag, think about what would happen if you lost it. That’s a good starting point to decide what to leave behind at home, or at the hotel when you are traveling. I limit carrying cash to what I would need for that day, and only bring the ATM and credit cards I plan to use. If you have more than one ATM card or credit card, unless you intend to shop until you drop, take them out of your wallet to spend for another day.

I also only bring one identification with me. That means my Social Security System, PhilHealth, PAGIBIG and Bureau of Internal Card IDs all stay at home under lock and key. I only carry my passport when about to board a plane for an international flight, and the rest of the time, I only present a photo of it from my mobile phone.

#2 Create many “hiding” places.

I have learned to keep cash in a wallet and in a coin purse. The wallet would have my ATM card and cash, and it will be buried deeper in my bag. My coin purse with coins and smaller bills would be more accessible, and it’s what I would take out of my bag when I need to pay my jeepney or bus fare. 

I also have a card case for my ATM and credit cards and they are placed in another compartment inside my bag. My mobile phone is zipped in another part of the bag. The idea here is that if I lost any one, I would have still the others and can pay for my way home.

#3 What if you lose your bag?

Thankfully, this has yet to happen to me but I have heard horror stories. A friend lost hers during her son’s baptismal and that marred what should have been a happy occasion for the family. In this case, if you followed #1, that’s one piece of good news. Ideally, you kept copies of your ATM and credit card details, plus numbers to call in case of loss so you can start contacting your bank and stop fraudulent use. If you haven’t, do so now to make it easier for you in the future, just in case. 

Back up data in your phone in Cloud so you can access if your phone is taken. Activate Find my phone service if available. If your employee ID is taken, report that to your employer so they can deactivate and issue another one. If your house keys are in the bag, change your locks as chances are they can track your address from one of your stolen IDs. 

#4 Keep your valuables in sight.

Pickpockets use distractions to steal and I have fallen for their tactics one too many. Once, a “pregnant” woman played on my sympathies in a crowded mall and that cost me my mobile phone. Another time, it was two kids fighting and there went another wallet.

What you can do if these happen to you is to get the attention of security guards or policemen nearby. Do not jump into unknown situations where you can put your safety in danger, and your personal belongings too.

#5 Guard your personal space.

One luxury you cannot afford when commuting is personal space. Passengers are packed like sardines in jeepneys and vans, and do not even get me started on the ride conditions in the MRT and LRT. But as much as you can, set up an invisible bubble between you, your bag and personal items, and the other persons around you. 

Maybe keep your bag between your knees and in your line of sight? Or put it on your lap and then your arms around it? Stay alert and sit close to the driver or the bus conductor or the exit doors. The last thing you should do is to fall asleep and make yourself even more vulnerable.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.