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Unfortunately, Southern Italy is known for its high rate of petty crime. Be especially cautious around touristy areas like historic sites, museums and on buses or trains. If you are driving around Palermo or the rest of Sicily, don't leave valuables in the car, especially electronics like computers, music players and cameras. To avoid muggings, don't walk by yourself, especially in isolated areas or after dark. If you are using an ATM make sure that nobody watches as you enter your PIN. Also, it is common for criminals to rig ATMs so that they keep your card. If your card isn't returned, report it to the bank immediately.
Be wary of any strangers to avoid being scammed. One visitor reported that a man approached him asking for directions and was then swarmed by other men claiming to be police asking for his credit cards and PIN numbers. Such scams are common and their methods of obtaining your money are sometimes ingenious. The best thing to do is to ignore any strangers on the street who approach you unprovoked, no matter how convincing of a story they tell you.
If you are a victim of a crime, report it to the nearest US embassy or consulate as well as the local authorities. The
US Department of State web site has more information on safety while traveling in Italy.