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Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

Louisville, Kentucky
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Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

Here’s another humble “stupid traveler” confession, and I share our stories in the hope that it will help other travelers. Last year, I lost my wallet and this year, it happened to my husband. This happened within an hour of our arriving in France, and here’s how it went down:

We arrived from the US and walked to the St. Augustin train station with a carry on and rolling back pack. Having had my wallet lifted last year, I was ready. My purse was a handbag version of a bank transfer truck, only it wasn’t armed. I had a cross body with a heavy strap, compartments with zippers and Velcro, a buckled outside flap that I carried backwards so that the buckle wasn’t exposed, and I even had my money/credit card pouches attached to a key fob inside the innermost compartment of my purse. I separated my credit cards and cash in separate zip pouches, and I was as good to go as I could be. My husband however, is a guy and thinks I over react. I know how good these pickpockets are, but until it happens to you, it’s easy to think you can handle it.

We arrived at the St. Augustin train station, and my husband pulled out his wallet and offered me a credit card. Why? Neither of us know, and this was our first mistake. I had my cards and said I was okay, and customarily, he put his wallet in his back pocket. That was the second big mistake. Men, don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket. At the station, I had noticed a few men sitting along the wall and after we entered the platform, I saw one of them standing close to us. I was uneasy, but wasn’t sure that I wasn’t being paranoid. Travelers, be paranoid and trust your instincts. On the St. Augustin platform in the direction of Monte Carlo, there is almost a two foot (higher than my knee) distance between the platform and the first step on to the train. When the guy offered to help my husband lift our bag onto the train car, I thought, “Maybe, he’s not so bad and it’s me.” This was a naive, over trusting rationale. After the bag was in the car, the guy squeezed between my husband and the door frame and disappeared. In hindsight, we think he used the motion of lifting the bag onto the train to push up my husband’s wallet into his hand. Within a few minutes, we realized that my husband’s wallet was gone, and from here, I want to share our experience in how one card was used and how we got replacement cards.

Everyone knows to cancel their cards ASAP, and we started doing this on the train to Villefranche sur Mer, about a fifteen minute ride from the Nice St. Augustin station. We were on this quickly. We started with our American Express cards (2) and our debit card, and these were okay. However, we had a new Chase Chip card and while we were on the phone with the Chase agent on our walk from the VF train station to our hotel, the person (people?) who had lifted the wallet used the Chase Chip card. This happened first at the train station at what appeared to be the automated machine and shortly thereafter, at an electronics store. This all showed up as we talked to the Chase agent walking from the VF train station to our hotel in harbor. We had a US Chip card without a PIN (all that is available at this time in the US), and I’m thinking that he was testing the card at the station before moving to the electronics store. The charge at the station may have been below a charge the required a pin. After the electronics store, the thief then tried to use the card several more times, but it had been shut down. This is just a theory, but I think the chip card may have been easy for the thieves to use because it looks like a card that someone who lives locally might use. American credit cards are magnetic strip only, and in the wrong hands, trying to use one of these might raise suspicions. The chip is the only card that was ever attempted to be used on both sets of cards that we lost on this and last year’s trips. Thanks to our Chase’s fraud protection, we are not being held responsible for the charges on our chip card, but it’s still creepy. Lesson learned? First, don’t get pickpocketed and second, if you have a chip card, cancel that one first.

We needed replacement cards and here’s that story: As long as my husband I were traveling together, one set of cards would have seen us through our trip, but he was traveling on business and on to Paris while I stayed in the Cote d’Azur. He needed replacement cards ASAP and our credit card companies got it done. I’m writing this from our experience in the Cote d’Azur, but I would think that the process will be similar in other parts of France. Here is some good to know information:

1) The American Express office at the Nice airport, terminal 2, can emboss a temporary replacement card and for us, this happened via the Paris AE office. We called the AE number on the back of my card and for our new cards, they sent approval through the AE Paris office to the Nice airport office. This was completed within a few hours from when we started the process at the airport. What we got was a generic card (not “Sky Miles,” “Corporate,” or whatever), but it was fine. In other parts of France, I’m thinking that the AE office can direct you to an office that can emboss a card.

2) As American Express is not accepted everywhere, travelers need to also carry a Visa or Mastercard, and we needed a Chase (or other card) replacement. Chase sent us a new chip card within three business days, and I would think other US national banks could do the same. Our hotel in Villefranche accepted the delivery and my husband was good to go.

If pickpocketing happens to you, make a police report. You need this for your own documentation and to help to French police establish pattern. They hate that this happening as much as you do. A report is easy to file at a city police station where it’s done by computer, and branch offices (such as the one at the airport) take more time.

So, that’s my confession, and I hope this helps someone else avoid a problem. A taxi from the Nice airport to Villefranche is starting to look not so expensive, and I think I now have my husband’s attention on how we need to take this seriously. Don’t assume anything about your ability to stop these guys if you carry your money and credit cards as you might do when you your are not traveling. Men, no wallets in your back pockets and ladies, leave your cute designer purses at home. That said, we’ve traveled to France annually since 2000, and we’ve only had these two experiences. My husband travels to Europe more frequently than I do and this is his first experience with a pickpocket. Sometimes, you just do stupid things in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's creepy when this happens to you. Someone has touched you and your stuff with the intent of taking something from you. The ramifications and consequences of loosing a wallet resonate beyond just your loss of money and credit cards.

Nice
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1. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

I am sorry to hear this but your husband's behavior was bizarre. given that you have attracted pickpockets before.

i guess jetlag may have been partly the issue

Wallets do not go in back or easily accessible pockets.

Once again- IT IS OK TO " PROFILE "" PEOPLE.

If you get a bad feeling about people or a situation believe your feelings. Who cares if they are wrong or not they are designed to protect you and following the instinct will keep you cautious and most importantly safe

I advise you strongly to read Gavin de Becker's book- The Gift Of Fear [which should really be named the gift of intuition]

Palmetto, Florida
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2. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

Hi

I hope I won't have to follow your advice anytime soon, but thank you very much for the info. I travel with AE and Chase cards as well and am glad to hear they serve customers well in emergency situations.

Essex
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3. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

Oh dear!

What a pain for you and Mr troggs.

At least you got things all sorted out and quick, so well done for that.

Hope it never happens again.

Louisville, Kentucky
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4. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

My husband travels often internationally, and I'm fortunate to accompany him on the trip to the Cotes d'Azur. This trip is one of others he takes to Europe on business.

My husband saw my experience last year as an unfortunate occurrence and not something we should profile or look for over our shoulders. That's been his experience when her's traveled to Europe on Business. That changed with this experience. He's not "bizarre." He's fair and trusted his and our past travel experiences in Europe.

We live in a country where profiling is a bad thing, but as Selkie as said, it's not something we will do again. If I get suspicious, I'll get "antsy" and relay that angst when I see anything that makes me uncomfortable. I was downplaying these concerns and trying to play "fair," but I will alert everyone around me if I see something like I saw in the St. Augustin station that day. This is the closest train station to the Nice airport, and for us. I think as Selkie said, jetlag was a factor. I think the group inside the station along the wall knew this and knows how to spot us. I also think the level of the platform to the train contributed to our vulnerability. For transatlantic travelers, I won't be recommending this route again.

Edited: 01 December 2012, 02:57
Bellflower...
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5. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

"My husband however, is a guy and thinks I over react." True. My husband insisted on keeping his wallet in a pocket, even though I offered to carry it in my purse. It was a side pocket, which is also easy to pick. No, his pocket wasn't picked; nevertheless, I was uneasy.

Thank you for the post.

MrsJAS

Nice
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6. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

troggs- i don't know if your husband is bizarre or not. I did not describe him as bizarre

I said his behaviour, as recounted in your report, was bizarre.

You have recounted a previous incidence of being pickpocketed after fumbling around with cards and money at a station and also being vaguely aware that the people around were triggering an alert.-so it is strange to repeat this and especially odd for a supposedly seasoned traveler to do it.

Pickpockets are looking for easy pickings.

random people on station platforms don't know what you are thinking so you can think what you like about them - keep yourselves safe and especially don't be complacent at home due to fear about not being PC

why you did not buy your train tickets from the aiport ticket offices ?

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

Troggs, sorry about what happened and I do know that feeling.

I have reached the stage now where when my radar goes off I immediately pull Nick aside to look in a window, get his back against a Metro wall or whatever. He knows why I do it. That feeling you get that you are being followed or targeted shouldn't be ignored. A few times when I have done this the other person has faltered, then walked on. I think my feelings have been correct most of the time.

London /Nice
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8. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

you can't beat yourself up when these things happen! But I have never put a wallet in my back pocket

Actually I don't have a wallet but do have a credit card holder.When I go out I take one card in an inside jacket pocket (zipped if possible) and some cash(seperate). If no jacket then the card is in a front pocket with something i.e. tissue on top

So if anyone gets their hands on that it is up close and personal

I have just been on a cruise which included Barcelona Palermo and Naples, all well known pickpocketing cities

And I survived but had better not crow too loudly or I'll be caught out in Nice next weekend!!!!!!

Ireland
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9. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

I met an Irish couple who had exactly the same experience at the Juan Les Pins train station. The husband had also put his wallet in his back pocket and was picked. There is no point in the wife having her wallet enclosed in the equivalent of a straight jacket if the husband parades around with his wallet in his back pocket. It is a lesson learned the hard way.

I agree 100% with Selkie. I profile and I don't give a damn who it offends. I tell my wife if I see something suspicious and we take appropriate action. If someone gets too close and invades our personal space I ensure they move away. These thieves are parasites who make an easy living off the hard-earned cash of other people (inflicting considerable stresss on them in the process). They do not deserve to be treated with any respect.

Troggs, I am sorry to hear that you and your husband have been victims of these parasites on two successive visits to this region. I am sure it is very unlikely to happen again as you will both take the relevant precautions. I await the potential posts of derision from the irritating do-gooder brigade.

Antibes, France
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10. Re: Pickpocketed again! This time it was my husband.

A shocking experience, troggs. Amex seems to be worth having altho' as you say not all retailers accept it ( high commission fees). I don't know if many other banks would respond as fast . My French bank told me it would take 6 days for a replacement card when it ceased to work in their own ATM ( it took 2 weeks in fact !). Dread to think what would happen if I bumped into those thieves.

Anyway, definitely no wallet in the back pocket...! Amazing how many men I see with wallets and phones protrucing from the rear pockets.

BTW from your post I wasnt sure if the robbers were successful in using the card without a PIN in the electronics shop? Use of a whammer nowadays would be rare in france.

NiceIrlande- agree with you on profiling. Even our old friend Rick Steves' has the helpful picture of Romany gypsys ( not sure if they were involved again troggs ) in one of his guidebooks - on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice no less.

Ed