Originally posted: http://www.pickpocket.com/Pickpocket-Prevention-Tips.asp
Pickpocketing is easy money for those who ply their trade, and ply it well. Knowing how pickpockets work is the first step in protecting yourself from them. It also helps you learn how to spot them easier as well.
Pay attention to your valuables whenever someone stops you to ask the time, bumps into you, drops items on the ground in front of you, or generally attempts to momentarily distract you. Pickpockets often work in pairs. One distracts while the other does the actual picking. If the target discovers something is amiss, they usually confront the bait person who obviously doesn’t have the target’s possessions, and then goes free. The target can suspect the baiter is working with someone, but has no proof.
When in public, usually in an area with plenty of foot traffic, and or crowds, note individuals who seem to be signaling each other. Often they will not appear to be together. Pay attention to behavior, not appearances! One might be dressed as a business man, while another is dressed like a student. Pickpockets often use children, or women in their schemes. Few people would not stop to help a lady in distress, or a child asking a question. You can’t have preconceived notions if you are to catch these criminals at their game.
If you’re on a train, watch for someone leaving a car by one door, only to re-enter another. Look out for two people that enter separate cars, signaling one another, or taking up positions where they can cover the other. Watch someone who sits next to someone sleeping, or who has a bag, brief case, or other carry on, as they might get up at a stop and slip away with the other person’s item unnoticed.
Watch for two people having a conversation, only to split up and then later reconnect. Watch for surreptitious hand offs, of quick passing motions (often mistaken for hand shakes). In this day and age, even watch for people nodding to each other while texting. Generally keep an eye out for people who may be teamed up, even if they’re not side by side.
Sit in a mall, or a train, and watch.. just watch. You’ll begin to note who is watching who. Don’t watch directly, but use sunglasses, or look at reflections in windows. These are also tools the pickpockets use, so note who is using them that way.
This book, found on Scribd.com, is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning about pickpockets and their methods. This makes them easier to spot and defend against.