The United Kingdom may be renowned for its welcoming and well-mannered locals, but in reality, travelling through the country isn’t all tea and biscuits.
Like most places in the world, petty thieves and opportunists pose a real threat. And with pickpocketing ploys like ‘the bottleneck’ and ‘the moped mugger’, travellers to the UK should keep their guard up at all times.
British Transport Police have launched a campaign called Be Aware, warning passengers to stay vigilant of their valuables while using public transport in the UK.
One of the common tactics they warn against is ‘the stall’, also commonly known as ‘the bottleneck’.
The scam involves a team of pickpockets blocking a passageway, like the exit of a train carriage or the bottom of an escalator. They create a scrum of passengers and use the crowded environment to grab what they can unnoticed.
‘Moped muggings’ are also frighteningly common in the UK, with over 16,000 incidents recorded in London in one year alone.
The drive-by thieves will snatch phones, wallets, handbags and even jewellery as they zip past pedestrians.
One of the oldest tricks in the book, the distraction is the most common ploy used by pickpockets across the world. It usually involves thieves working in pairs, with one member getting your attention while the other goes to work on your valuables.
Distraction scams are often targeted towards travellers, who can be easily swayed by persuasive and seemingly friendly locals.
Thankfully, deterring pickpockets can be simple. Use these strategies to protect your valuables and thieves will look for an easier target:
If a stranger approaches and begins talking to you, get into the habit of resting your hand on your phone or wallet in your pocket, or securing your bag firmly under your arm.
When you’re in crowded areas or on public transport, wear your bag on the front of your body to keep a closer eye on it.
Don’t flash your cash or jewellery in public and keep all luggage zipped when travelling, or better yet, locked securely with luggage locks.