Ways to Outsmart the Pickpockets

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Correction Appended

I have been pick-pocketed only once in my extensive traveling life. It was in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard, where the thief managed to undo my backpack, grab my wallet and never even touch the arm of my husband draped around my shoulder. A few years later, near Westminster Abbey in London, two girls "accidentally" bumped into my mother, as well as her large purse, apologizing to us profusely as they walked away with her wallet.

Adam Rapp, the creator of P^Cubed, Pick Pocket Proof Pants, came up with the idea for theft-resistant garments without having ever been pickpocketed himself. He did have a near-miss in 2007 in Xian, China, at the Bell Towers there, where narrow, overcrowded walkways make tourists easy targets for thieves. Had it not been for Mr. Rapp's travel companion warning him of a hand reaching for his bulging back pocket, he would have been another victim of petty crime.

"Losing my wallet would have been a disaster as we were traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam for a further four months," Mr. Rapp said by phone from Taiwan. It took him a few more years of traveling and two years of development to introduce P^Cubed, which has shown up in such popular outdoor stores as Orvis and Paragon, as well as in travel catalogs like Magellan's, in the past year. The trousers are $109.95. (www.clothingarts.com)

Designed, as Mr. Rapp said, to "put security back in the hands of the owners," these hidden zipper and button flap cargo pants have front pockets that can store your smartphone, and rear cut-resistant, expandable double-thick pockets that grow wider to fit a guidebook. Beneath the left rear pocket is another hidden one with a covered zipper for your passport and money.

"I think of these pants as urban wear meets outerwear, because they are aesthetically designed but also durable," said Mr. Rapp, who hopes to introduce his first women's line by next spring. "We know women don't want a lot of pockets around the hips," he said, explaining that all his pants (his company makes shorts and even business pants) have the same security as wearing multiple money belts.

Gay MacGregor, a businesswoman who travels at least once a month for work and recreation swears by her City Safe 200 bag ($79.99), made by Pacsafe (www.pacsafe.com), an industry leader in anti-theft and security travel gear. "I bought it before I went on a trip to the Middle East, where I knew I would be shopping in crowded souks," said Ms. MacGregor of the stylish black purse, which has a variety of safety features.

Designed to look contemporary, one would never know the shoulder strap, bottom and side panels, all hide a built-in, lightweight, stainless-steel wire mesh that prevents bag slashers from slicing through and running off with your wallet, camera, or iPad (the purse can fit a 13-inch laptop). Additionally, zippers fasten to clips, making it impossible for even nimble fingers to pull them back, as well as a variety of pockets for storing everything from electronic devices to keys. "I now carry the purse every day just because it is so convenient for finding things, as well as so sturdy," Ms. MacGregor admitted.

Beyond the purse, however, she also recommended the Sprigs Phone Banjees ($16.50, www.sprigs.com), a wrist wallet that can hold a cell phone, cash, credit card and a house key while you exercise or travel. "I don't only wear it when I go to the hotel gym to work out, but also when I go out for a quick dinner," she said. "Not having my purse is one less thing to worry about in an unfamiliar city. It is made of organic cotton with a bit of spandex for stretch.

Nowadays, however, it can be just as disruptive to your vacation and life to lose your laptop with all your work, photos, and personal information in the hands of a stranger as it is to lose your wallet, money and credit cards. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. I lost mine in an airport in Toronto five years ago as fast as you can say, "You've Got Mail." One minute it was on my trolley, the next minute it was gone.

Years earlier I had witnessed my friend go through the same ordeal at a cafe in Paris. I watched her face grow pale as the bill arrived. It wasn't the price of our aperitifs that had her in shock, but the realization that the well-dressed couple that had briefly sat down beside us had left with her briefcase.

In my case, because of the split second I turned to tend to my children, I became another F.B.I. statistic.

Ninety-seven percent of the laptops lost are never recovered. Neither my friend nor I ever saw our laptops again.

Traumatized by that event, I no longer feel comfortable even loading my laptop onto a tray to go through security stations, but there is now a product out that might alleviate my worries: Scansafe's laptop bag, which fits most standard 15-inch devices ($89.95, www. pacsafe.com).

The laptop bag is Travel Sentry Approved, so it is approved by major airport security systems worldwide. The bag opens flat, giving security a clear view for the airport screening so you don't have to remove it from the case. Along with having tamper-proof zippers and a slash-proof case and shoulder straps, it comes with a metal clip, or for higher security, a combination lock, that allows owners to loop the strap around a secure fixture, like a chair or bus seat, and then fasten it tightly.

And though I have yet to be a victim of an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) fraud crime, having learned about it I won't take chances. Many of the newer credit cards now have RFID microchip technology inside them that allow thieves to electronically pick-pocket you without ever touching your cards. Instead, the perpetrator only has to swipe your purse or wallet and he is in business -- able to pick up your card number and expiration with a device that allows him to clone your card.

The RFID Blocking Anti-Theft Travel Wallet (www.corporatetravelsafety.com), $29.95, allows travelers to put their cards into a wallet made of fabric that blocks any scanner and also has room for your passport, phone and cash. What's more, with a thin cut-resistant shoulder strap it is a lightweight way to carry your wallet and other important items under your jacket -- the next best thing to simply lying on your bed in your hotel room, guarding your possessions in the safe.

Correction: June 30, 2012, Saturday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified a store in which P^Cubed products are sold. It is Paragon, not Patagonia.

travel

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published June 30, 2012 1:00 PM


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