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Thu Jul 12, 2018, 07:47 AM

If you travel to Europe this summer, beware of this:

Especially in public transportation and at train stations.....

There are trained bands of three to four, usually younger guys in their twenties. What they do is this: one of them smears some junk on the back or your jacket/shirt, whatever. Another comes up and "helpfully" telly you that you have some junk on your back and offers to help you wipe it off. When you look (which is what they want), you put your luggage or handbag down and take off your jacket (or whatever) to look, and indeed, there will be something there. In the second(s) while you are doing this, the third one grabs and runs off with your handbag/luggage/whatever. If caught, the "helpful" ones had no idea (of course) about any luggage or handbag you might have had, and don't know (of course) who could possibly have robbed you.

In Belgium, the only place this had happened to me before, it was either bands of Moroccans or Romanians. A band tried this on me yesterday evening in the Düsseldorf train station. First time in Germany (for me, anyway). This time, they seemed to comprise both ethnicities. I knew what was happening, of course, and when they told me I had some guck on my back, and took out kleenex to "help" me get it off, I knew exactly what was going on, and told them to fuck off, which they did once they realized I was on to them.

These bands of organized thieves are HIGHLY skilled at what they do, and if you drop your guard for even a second, you will be minus a handbag or a suitcase in no time flat. They only strike where they can make a quick escape into a crowd, and down stairs or out a door.

I now have a ruined jacket with the back completely smeared with pancake make-up. It's still preferable to losing my laptop or my briefcase full of documents or my suitcase. This being Europe, nothing will ever be done about these thieves, so don't expect any help from the police if you get robbed. They are not interested. Protect yourself by knowing in advance about the tactic. If someone comes up to you and tells you that your outer garment has been smeared with something, and offers to help you clean it off, tell them to get lost--forcefully--and hold on to your belongings as tightly as you can.

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Reply If you travel to Europe this summer, beware of this: (Original post)
DFW Jul 12 OP
Ohiya Jul 12 #1
DFW Jul 12 #57
Ohiya Jul 12 #59
DFW Jul 12 #70
Ohiya Jul 12 #74
PufPuf23 Jul 12 #94
dhol82 Jul 12 #2
VOX Jul 12 #3
47of74 Jul 12 #9
HipChick Jul 12 #10
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #14
HipChick Jul 12 #16
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #17
a la izquierda Jul 12 #24
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #25
a la izquierda Jul 13 #95
DFW Jul 12 #69
DFW Jul 12 #58
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #61
DFW Jul 12 #63
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #64
TeamPooka Jul 12 #65
DFW Jul 12 #67
Lonestarblue Jul 12 #18
Blue_true Jul 12 #32
pnwmom Jul 12 #91
DFW Jul 12 #27
VOX Jul 12 #48
DFW Jul 12 #51
Adsos Letter Jul 12 #4
COLGATE4 Jul 12 #6
HipChick Jul 12 #11
The Mouth Jul 12 #22
chelsea0011 Jul 12 #35
flor-de-jasmim Jul 12 #7
Roy Rolling Jul 12 #15
Scarsdale Jul 12 #34
DFW Jul 12 #55
Raster Jul 12 #20
DFW Jul 12 #86
Raster Jul 13 #96
BumRushDaShow Jul 12 #28
DFW Jul 12 #29
GoneOffShore Jul 12 #42
GulfCoast66 Jul 12 #43
DFW Jul 12 #62
GulfCoast66 Jul 12 #76
DFW Jul 12 #84
GulfCoast66 Jul 12 #90
cab67 Jul 12 #5
DemoTex Jul 12 #8
hlthe2b Jul 12 #12
Ezior Jul 12 #13
DFW Jul 12 #31
George II Jul 12 #19
PatrickforO Jul 12 #21
DFW Jul 12 #33
ProudMNDemocrat Jul 12 #23
kskiska Jul 12 #26
Texin Jul 12 #39
Texin Jul 12 #41
GetRidOfThem Jul 12 #30
DFW Jul 12 #36
GetRidOfThem Jul 12 #46
Adsos Letter Jul 12 #54
DFW Jul 12 #56
mahina Jul 12 #37
Texin Jul 12 #38
DFW Jul 12 #40
spinbaby Jul 12 #44
Loge23 Jul 12 #45
CTyankee Jul 12 #47
Adsos Letter Jul 12 #49
CTyankee Jul 12 #50
Adsos Letter Jul 12 #52
tblue37 Jul 12 #77
CTyankee Jul 12 #78
tblue37 Jul 12 #79
ProudMNDemocrat Jul 12 #53
Hekate Jul 12 #73
ProudMNDemocrat Jul 12 #75
Quemado Jul 12 #60
LeftInTX Jul 12 #68
Quemado Jul 12 #82
EX500rider Jul 12 #71
Quemado Jul 12 #85
DFW Jul 12 #72
Quemado Jul 12 #87
DFW Jul 12 #88
Adsos Letter Jul 12 #89
Quemado Jul 12 #93
Name removed Jul 12 #66
LisaM Jul 12 #80
iamateacher Jul 12 #81
mnhtnbb Jul 12 #83
ucrdem Jul 12 #92
steve2470 Jul 13 #97

Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:03 AM

1. Thanks for posting this...

I'm heading to Ireland tomorrow!

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Response to Ohiya (Reply #1)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:41 PM

57. Be vigilant, but I have never heard of anyone getting robbed like that in Ireland

There's always a first time, though! Don't be it!

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Response to DFW (Reply #57)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:45 PM

59. Actually, living in Columbus Ohio is probably far more dangerous...

than traveling anywhere in Ireland!

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Response to Ohiya (Reply #59)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 04:59 PM

70. I've never been to Columbus, Ohio.

Do I need to hire security?

Actually, when we went to Moscow to visit a German friend living there, we asked him if we should take a taxi from the airport to get to his apartment. He said, "are you crazy? I want you to get here alive. I'll pick you up." And he was being serious! I think things are a bit calmer there now, but for a while, it was pretty crazy there.

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Response to DFW (Reply #70)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:32 PM

74. In Thomas Pynchon's book, "Against the Day"

A character is fond of saying, "If the U.S. was a person and it sat down, Columbus, Ohio would instantly be plunged into darkness."

Actually, it is not that bad.

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Response to DFW (Reply #57)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 11:17 PM

94. Way long ago 1981 in Ireland had a strange occurrence.

We were a young married couple from California with a rental car and picked up a young couple hitching. Turned out they were tinkers or Irish Roma. They kept on making excuses on why they should travel with us. In a small town we saw a constable and stopped and they were gone like a flash.

Seems the USA is just as dangerous now as anywhere.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:09 AM

2. My husband got robbed in the Paris Metro.

Extremely efficient and wonderfully dexterous band of South American young men.
There were five of them in their late teens, early twenties and very well dressed. Entered the car, boosted around my husband and irritated him. While he was being pissed they stole his money and got off at the next stop - waving and smiling as the train pulled out of the station.
Had another incident like this but were prepared that time - he put his hands in his pockets and stared them down.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:13 AM

3. Especially now that Americans are so beloved worldwide.

It's not a stretch to imagine a thief/pickpocket would likely feel justified in targeting an American, now that we're morphing into a fascist dictatorship.

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Response to VOX (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:42 AM

9. When I go overseas next winter

As far as any rando on the street is concerned I’m
Canadian

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Response to VOX (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:42 AM

10. There's no way for a thief to know if you are an American...


However, on my travels.... I have seen folks, flashing money, wearing lots of jewelry ...holding up cellphones, acting lost...
these create all windows of opportunities ...

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Response to HipChick (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:07 AM

14. If they hear you speaking English with an "American (non-European) accent"

you are a sitting duck (this would include Canadians as well).

Whenever I have been overseas, I can spot (white) "Americans". In fact, as a black American woman, they "spot" me first and then come over and try to get friendly in order to create a "safety in numbers (of "Americans" )" situation, whereas back in the states, they would be the first to call 911 if they saw me in their neighborhood. It's really wild to experience.

And ALWAYS ALWAYS, wherever I have gone over the past almost 50 years, there is someone from New Jersey there.

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #14)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:12 AM

16. Haha!....good observation...if I'm overseas, I do not provide a safety in numbers

for Americans...y'all are on your own, and don't ask me for directions...that's what Siri is for..
I don't have much of an accent, but I was royally dissected for using my Amex and then complaining about the cold food (in this case frozen salmon) that was served...I went upside those Brits one side and down the other...for calling me a yank...and not minding their own biz..

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Response to HipChick (Reply #16)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:13 AM

17. LOL

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #14)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:32 AM

24. I'm in Europe now...

And make zero effort whatever to talk to any Americans.
If I wanted to speak to my hopefully-soon-to-be-former-countrymen/women, I’d stay in the States. I speak English quietly enough not to attract attention and switch to Spanish and French whenever necessary.

I’ve had no bad luck with scammers though.

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Response to a la izquierda (Reply #24)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:37 AM

25. Meaning

you don't act like a "typical American tourist".

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #25)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 12:58 AM

95. Exactly that

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Response to a la izquierda (Reply #24)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 04:54 PM

69. It's not like it happens to me on a daily basis either

Once a year, maybe, and usually in Brussels. When we need them, we use a team of ex-Mossad/Israeli Special Forces guys based out of Amsterdam. NOBODY messes with them. But they are very expensive, so we only use them for sensitive projects.

I don't mind running into Americans, but the nature of my work is such that I just don't, and it makes sense. You don't hire a guy who speaks eight other European languages OTHER than English to interact with Americans abroad.

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #14)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:43 PM

58. You know? You're right!

There IS always someone from New Jersey--everywhere. I think Jerseyites are the American Filipinos. There is no corner of the earth where they are NOT.

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Response to DFW (Reply #58)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:52 PM

61. The state must have a population of like a billion!

And I see enough being in PA as their neighbor state.

I was in the Bahamas a few years ago jamming by the pool with a bunch that acted like they were straight out of the "Jersey Shore" reality show and they were proud of it!

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #61)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 03:15 PM

63. I'll see you and raise you one. Check THIS out:

IN 1974, my brother and I sought out and found a tiny island in Croatia (then Yugoslavia) that a French friend of mine had recommended. We found out way there, but what a chore! An overnight train from Munich to Rijeka, the a ferry over to the island of Cres, then a four or five hour trip to the town of Mali Lošinj, and then the next day a boat over to Ilovik (this is not a joke).

We got off the boat (every 2 days!) and looked for a hostel or whatever. Zip. Nothing. My brother and I said oh, crap, NOW what do we do for 2 days? A blonde girl of about ten or so came up to us and said, "oh are you guys AMEHRicans? I guess you need a place to stay, right?" We confirmed her suspicions. She said, OK follow me. She led us up to a house and jabbered away in Croatian with a woman there. The girl said, "OK, the people from the house you're staying in are coming." We could believe it. We asked her where she was from.

"Oh, I'm from New Jersey. We all are. Our grandparents emigrated from here, so our parents make us come here every summer so we learn the language." This whole island had, at one point or another emigrated to New Jersey, and some of them came back at the age of 80 or so to retire.

Of course, one time, I was in a hospital back in Dallas, and the next morning, a woman with features screaming "Filipina!" came in, and smiled, "good morning sir!" I took one look, recognized her accent and said "magandang omagá (good morning in Tagalog). She nearly dropped my breakfast. She asked how come I knew her language, and for that matter how did I even know what her language was? I said I had met SO many Filipinos that I had had them teach me some of their language, because they secretly controlled the world, being in every hotel, every hospital, every cruise ship and every service industry in the world. She laughed, and said I was right, but I shouldn't tell everybody, or it wouldn't be a secret any more.

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Response to DFW (Reply #63)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 03:31 PM

64. Bwah!

Great story! I grew up with a couple kids whose mother was Filipino (father was AA). I recently saw one of them many years later when his kids were in school with one of my nieces.

There must be some metaphysical thing going on.

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Response to DFW (Reply #63)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 03:40 PM

65. There's probably 20 Filipino nurses at the hospital

There’s probably 20 Filipino nurses at the hospital Where my wife works.
They are awesome, throw great parties, and the food is fantastic

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Response to TeamPooka (Reply #65)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 04:48 PM

67. Like I said. They secretly control the world

Good thing they're so laid back about it. Otherwise our official language would have been Tagalog for the last 50 years.

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Response to HipChick (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:14 AM

18. Sometimes Americans are very easy to spot.

I’ve seen American tourists wearing t-shirts with the U.S. flag prominently shown or with phrases that are obviously about the U.S. If you’re wearing a Clinton 2016 or a Trump 2016 shirt, you’re an obvious target. Tourists used to be identifiable by their shoes, but everyone wears athletic wear these days so that’s less obvious. The other way many people identify young female U.S. citizens is clothing. Some young women choose to wear skin-tight short shorts, and few Europeans do so—at least not in public that I’ve noticed.

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Response to HipChick (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:51 AM

32. When I travel anywhere, I check all my luggage except my computer bag/briefcase.

The computer bag/briefcase has a shoulder strap that I always set on the shoulder opposite the bag, they would have to pull the bag off my torso, I am a big athletic guy, I doubt they would try something like that. I have always found that it is easier for me to wait for my luggage on the destination carousel that lug it around everywhere.

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Response to HipChick (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:12 PM

91. It's a big hint if you're wearing bluejeans. And many are adept with accents,

though they might have trouble distinguishing Canadians.

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Response to VOX (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:47 AM

27. This has nothing to do with Americans

This first guy I know that fell victim to this was a Brit between 15 and 20 years ago, near the Gare Centrale in Brussels.

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Response to DFW (Reply #27)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 11:10 AM

48. Understood. Clumsy metaphor on my part.

I was merely thinking about how many Europeans likely aren’t feeling particularly kindly toward the United States of late, thanks to our... “leadership.”

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Response to VOX (Reply #48)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:12 PM

51. Well, you're correct. They're not.

But in this particular case, they are professional thieves, who are after anyone they can rob, and what passport he or she is carrying doesn't figure into their plans.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:13 AM

4. I'm heading to Barcelona/Nice/Rome in September and October.

I've heard so much bad stuff about the pickpockets, theft, etc., that, at this point, I'd almost rather not go.

Thanks for the heads up on this tactic.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:29 AM

6. Spend about $10 and invest in an elastic money belt

or pouch you can wear under your pants. Keep your passport, credit cards (and other vital docs) there along with most of your money. You can always keep a few Euros where you normally carry them but at least then, if (or should I say "when"?) they boost you you've kept the loss to a minimum.

PS - Another favorite trick is for the thieves to leave a wallet on the ground, then ask you "is this yours?". You then instinctively reach to pat your pants to see if it's yours and the waiting pickpocket knows exactly where you carry it. Goodbye, wallet.

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Response to COLGATE4 (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:48 AM

11. Great advice...I wear a Fanny pack...

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Response to HipChick (Reply #11)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:28 AM

22. Fanny packs can be picked so quickly you wouldn't believe it!

Utterly useless for carrying anything that matters in an area with world-class pickpockets.

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Response to COLGATE4 (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:54 AM

35. Taking one with me this summer. I have used them in the past and they are a bit

uncomfortable but well worth it.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:32 AM

7. Ah...

This is painting the continent with a broad brush:

"This being Europe, nothing will ever be done about these thieves, so don't expect any help from the police if you get robbed."

Still, thanks for the heads up for this type of scam. Similar ones include needing help in reading a map or finding a street, or just simple misdirection--"did you see what happened over there?"

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Response to flor-de-jasmim (Reply #7)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:08 AM

15. My Thoughts Exactly

I'm sure DFW is rightfully shocked at being assaulted and targeted for crime. "Being Europe..." is inappropriate, but not malicious nor intentionally unhelpful. Just an unfortunate choice of words.

Let's be candid, there is an element of incompetence--large in come countries, minuscule in others---that can be criticized. But such criticism is low-hanging fruit in an informative and useful discussion warning about gangs of thieves, and a bit off-topic. And ultra-critical people like me with time on their hands will point that out. 😄😄😄😁😁

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Response to Roy Rolling (Reply #15)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:52 AM

34. This is the equivalent

of foreigners saying "Watch for people with GUNS wherever you go in the US" Telling tourists "You stand a good chance of being shot anywhere you go in the US" Crime happens everywhere, so suffice it to say "Be careful wherever you go, even at home"

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Response to Roy Rolling (Reply #15)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:35 PM

55. SHocked at being assaulted and target for crime? In Europe?

I've been spending over half my time here for nearly 40 years, have lived here full time for almost ten.

There isn't much that could shock me at this point. Although there was one band of Serbians about 15 years ago. They were specialists at breaking into houses and apartments, and if they made a mistake, and there were people at home at the time, they simply killed them. They were only caught because they got sloppy, and one of their victims survived and later identified them. A friend of mine worked for the German BKA, their version of the FBI, at their HQ in Wiesbaden. He later got into forensics, and transferred to Berlin. They sent him to identify victims of the Bali disco bombing (or what was left of them). I think I would rather have stuck to chasing bad guys.

I was only surprised that the tactic that I had experienced up to now only in Belgium was suddenly tried on me in Düsseldorf. Maybe it has been used so often in Belgium that few fall for it any more.

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Response to flor-de-jasmim (Reply #7)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:15 AM

20. Perhaps... how long have you lived in Europe?

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Response to Raster (Reply #20)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:46 PM

86. Half and half since 39 years (1979), full time since 2011 (permanent residence status)

Actually, for the last 43 years, I have lived mostly in airports and train stations, most of them somewhere in Europe, though occasionally Asia or Latin America, with regular stops back in North America. Dutch was the only major language I learned SINCE moving here, and it isn't particularly difficult if you already know German, Swedish and English. I live an hour's drive from the Dutch border and travel there frequently, so I'd have to be some kind of idiot if I didn't learn their language.

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Response to DFW (Reply #86)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 06:32 AM

96. Actually, my friend, I was responding to the person that said you painted Europe...

... with a broad brush. I know you know about Europe. I know you've lived there for years.

I was just wondering how long "broad brush" person lived in Europe and what experience they may have "on the Continent."

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Response to flor-de-jasmim (Reply #7)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:47 AM

28. DFW lives there

is married to a German woman (and has a couple beautiful daughters), and has been in (most likely) just about every country there for work.

In the U.S., the thieves aren't as sophisticated and often zoom by on a bike, grab a bag or luggage, and ride off, or they will purposely bump your car with theirs, you get out to investigate, they go in your car and rip off your stuff and drive off. Or you are pumping gas somewhere and they open the (usually unlocked) passenger's side car door and grab a bag or pocketbook and off they go. Then there are the more violent ones who will come at you from behind and about smash you to the ground, rifle through your pockets, and run off.

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Response to flor-de-jasmim (Reply #7)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:49 AM

29. I have lived here in Europe for MANY years

I am in a different European country every day for my work, speak nine European languages, and have friends on both local police forces and the German version of the FBI. They will ALL tell you that the broad brush, in this particular instance, is accurate.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:10 AM

42. You'll be as safe in Europe as you would be in NYC or Chicago or Los Angeles

In fact, you'll be safer.

Yes, there are pickpockets, but if you use your city spidey sense, you'll be fine.

And these kinds of stories basically infuriate me. 'OOOoooo, pickpockets, and scammers, and thieves!!! Oh my!!"

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:11 AM

43. Europe is safer than the US and I have had no problems

What has worked for me on advice from a French friend.

1 Dress slightly more formal. Dark slacks or fitted jeans, button shirts and nice shoes. You will not stand out as an American. Apparently baggy clothes is the hallmark of Americans.

2 talk very quietly so as no to be over heard. Americans are just loud and we stand out.

3. As explained to me by my French friend, do not act like an American which is often the biggest give away. Do not smile a people Or make eye contact with neighbors or keep a grin on your face which we often do when in fun new places. Do not say hi to strangers or attempt to make small talk. Notice how the local act while in public and emulate them.


All this will not fool everyone that you are you are local, but will will not send out the vibe of rob me since you will appear to have some experience.

I am regularly asked questions in French while in France which is always fun.

And Because even the best advice does not always work I also found travel pants with hidden/hard to access pockets work wonders. Google travel pants. The first company that comes up has worked very well for me.

Have a great time.




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Response to GulfCoast66 (Reply #43)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 03:02 PM

62. What they look for during tourist season

..is NOT "is he American or not." What they look for is: "is he traveling alone, and is he carrying more than one bag?" If you can distract someone matching those criteria, they are easy marks for an organized, trained three-man group. American or not is beside the point. Easy victim or not is all they use to judge whether or not to strike. Sometimes they get it wrong, but since this is not a widely know tactic (yet!) in Germany, I'm betting there will be a few thousand victims this summer before it gets publicized widely enough so everyone knows what to be on the lookout for.

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Response to DFW (Reply #62)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:40 PM

76. I appreciate your example of the new tactic they are using

And will be eyes open for it when I visit this fall.

I guess I was responding to the overall trepidation expressed about traveling abroad and while my suggestions are by no means fool proof I do think they help.

I tend to agree that the authorities need to spend some time cracking down on the petty thefts which I do feel may be more common in Europe than in The US. But I will trade the risk of getting shot that I have here with a chance of petty theft.

We are visiting Freiburg and Heidelberg this fall. If I remember correctly you live near there. Am I making a wise choice? It seems nice.

Have a nice day.

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Response to GulfCoast66 (Reply #76)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:37 PM

84. Actually, I don't live near there. Those towns are far south of me

Of course, that's relative. Heidelberg is about 2 and a quarter hours south by train, and Freiburg is almost on the Swiss border., over 4 hours away. I loved Freiburg, always find Heidelberg a little touristy. I live up north next to Düsseldorf. If you get near there, give me a shout.

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Response to DFW (Reply #84)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:07 PM

90. Tempted to go there just to meet such an interesting and obviously intelligent DU member.

But we are actually spending a week in Venice with another couple. Then girls fly to Freiburg guys to Oktoberfest. I know, I know.

Then driving to Heidelberg as base for exploring the Neckar and to a lesser degree the Rhein castles and villages.

Not all excited about this trip as I have been to most places except Freiburg and Heidelberg although I have done the Rhein, Mosel. Etc.

But I find I really enjoy introducing others to Europe which we are doing on this trip. My 10th time over which to many here is nothing but not bad for this Louisiana boy.

How did you learn so many languages? I am not all that quick and after 6 years of working on French can function but am hardly literate. Of course I am over 50!

I really enjoy your posts and insights. You add a whole lot to DU.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:28 AM

5. it was a couple of Eastern European kids in Madrid in my case.

I was at an outdoor cafe. One kid waved a sign asking for money in my face. I waved him off. When I looked down, my cell phone was gone. It took about one second. I never saw the kid who actually took it.

I polled my facebook friends about the organisms to which they should be fed. We agreed on hagfish.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:37 AM

8. My dad got pick-pocketed in the Rome train station.

Dad ran through the station after the kid, yelling, "THAT SONOFABITCH GOT MY WALLET!" My dad was about 80 then.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:48 AM

12. Good advice

I experienced this overseas before, but I had clothing with hidden pockets for my $$ & passport
and, as I routinely do in unfamiliar environs when traveling by myself if I have bags with me, I tie a bit of thread from their handle to my wrist--not to secure it to me by any means, but merely to remind me to hold on tightly and continually. If I have a bag with shoulder straps, I have the kind that has embedded "wire" that can't be readily sliced to grab it from me. Having more bags than you can personally secure is likewise a "mark"... All the more reason to 'one-bag' travel.

While I won't be traveling in the immediate future, the one thing I could impart to Americans traveling abroad is to remove all US-related labels from bags and clothing that makes you a mark for being a westerner and especially an American. For obvious reasons being American may not be construed as positive in many locales (even more so than the Bush* years). Don't be oblivious to your surroundings or fail to interact beyond your travel companions or little group. All of that singles you out. One thing I learned as a American woman working and traveling throughout the ME by myself is that if you are open to conversing with those you encounter, making eye contact, smiling, talking or at least nodding (even when you don't speak the language), the locals will take care of YOU. I frequently had local women or men chase off the overly enthusiastic soliciting children or harassing young men. They know the thieving schemes as well and might well be your ultimate "protector"... I might add that I rarely was construed to be "American" but rather my hosts generally thought me Canadian or maybe Australian because of my "openness"... I think that should give all of us pause.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 08:54 AM

13. Ugh, thanks for the warning

I have actually never left Europe, and this has never happened to me, but I'm still afraid it might happen one day. So I'm always a little anxious at train stations, and try to anticipate someone talking to me, and remind myself to be extra careful in that case. I'm not really good at it though, I'm sure they'd just take all my attention away from my luggage within a second.

I wish Seehofer would focus on issues like this, and what to do about the southern European border with hundreds drowning in the mediterranean on a regular basis, instead of obsessing about the number of people crossing the German border from Austria.

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Response to Ezior (Reply #13)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:51 AM

31. Seehofer has nothing to do with this. It has been going on for at least 15 years

If law enforcement and the justice system gave heavy penalties for organized theft, it would diminish. They don't, and so it increases as a penalty-free lucrative occupation.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:14 AM

19. When I went to Paris now 15+ years ago, I was warned about pickpockets. Sure enough....

....on my second night there some guy started speaking to me in a friendly way, next thing I know his hand was in my pocket and my money was gone (don't keep money in my wallet)

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:19 AM

21. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

What a drag!

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Response to PatrickforO (Reply #21)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:52 AM

33. It happens periodically.

At least I knew what was going on. Most victims do not.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:30 AM

23. I wear my purse crossed my shoulders with my hoodie or jacket....


Over as to not be seen. The important stuff in a separate holder inside my clothing around my neck. Added pockets also help.

Bags with short straps acrossed the body. I read a number of books highlighting tips to prevent being robbed. So far, no problems.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:42 AM

26. I was told they can spot an American a block away

because so many of them are obese.

I made it a point to wear European-style walking shoes and very plain clothing, also the cross-body handbag. The problem used to be gypsy kids who'd wave a newspaper in front of your face, and meanwhile rob you while you were distracted.

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Response to kskiska (Reply #26)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:00 AM

39. They'll also do ad hoc street displays that look like impromtu plays.

And beware of the young girl with the baby routine, with her plaintive pout.

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Response to kskiska (Reply #26)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:05 AM

41. Yeah, I was going reference obese travelers, but there are fair number of Germans who are heavy too,

and fitness in European countries has been sliding with American fast food joints being so ubiquitous now. You'll see a fair number of people in France who are heavier now than they were when I first traveled there in the mid-'90s.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:49 AM

30. To me it happened in Paris a few years ago...

I was walking to the subway after meeting someone, with my briefcase. This was a neighborhood with a lot of North African immigrants. I walked through a crowd, felt someone go into my briefcase (actually unzipped it), and gone was my cell phone an some other, less important stuff.

I feel like going right into that same crowd again, with the same briefcase, and a couple of set mousetraps inside (and some paper towels soaked in ink!)

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Response to GetRidOfThem (Reply #30)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:54 AM

36. Good idea.

Or some soiled diapers?

By the way, for those with backpacks: we have caught some Romanians schooled in the use of razor blades. They can slit open a backpack so quickly and silently, you won't even notice there's nothing left in it until you take it off.

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Response to DFW (Reply #36)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:46 AM

46. Actually, as I was on the subway, my thoughts wandered...

Mousetraps and RED ink, that would be the idea! Oh the pain and panic that would strike!

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Response to DFW (Reply #36)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:23 PM

54. My wife had her passport lifted in Romania several years back.

She said she had the very slightest of sensations that something had touched her backpack.

She said that she went a few more steps before deciding that she should check it out.

Sure enough, backpack unzipped, passport gone.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #54)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:39 PM

56. The only thing you should carry in a backpack in Romania......

..........is underwear that is in need of washing. If you're part of a training session, they might even steal that just for practice.

I have worked with their Central Bank and have spent time in Bucureşti. From the architecture, I can imagine it was once a fabulous city, but Ceauşescu pretty much ruined it. After talking with the BNR (their Central Bank) I see how and why. What a greedy son of a bitch. He apparently thought he could somehow take it all with him.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:54 AM

37. Thank you DFW.

Sorry to read it.

Small comfort, at least the thieves aren’t running the country, unlike back here.

Cheers.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 09:57 AM

38. This has been going on for years. I've seen it first hand myself.

It's especially common in the southern areas of Europe near the Mediterranean. I saw it frequently in Nice. The trick is not to dress like an American. i.e., white sneakers, affinity-branded caps or tee shirts, etc. I never had any issues anyplace I traveled, and I was a single Caucasian woman during my first two visits to Europe, and I was traveling solo, so really had no one else to speak English with. The next couple of times I traveled with my spouse, and both of us speak a little French, and he speaks German and a smidgen of Italian. The only thing that ever happened to me while traveling abroad was when I set my sunglasses down in our Rome hotel and I forgot I'd done it. I went back to the lobby area immediately when I realized I'd done it, and they were (naturally) gone, and no one had turned them in to a Lost & Found. I've heard of people losing stuff on night coaches, but baggage, handbags, etc. simply can't be left unsecured and if you're traveling with a backpack, it needs to be on your person at all times, with valuables secured within your clothing in a money belt, etc.

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Response to Texin (Reply #38)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:02 AM

40. They don't discriminate

I have dressed in only European clothes for decades, speak French, Russian, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Swedish. What they were looking for was a single person traveling alone with luggage. They are equal opportunity thieves.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:25 AM

44. This whole thread is giving me anxiety

I’ll be traveling alone through Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands next month. I remember being accosted by “Zigeuner” the last time I was in Germany a decade ago.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:35 AM

45. Be smart and very careful

I once saw three muggings in one day in Rome.
Two were by gypsy children, one was a Vespa grab-by.
Fortunately I was not a victim. You have to be very aware of your surroundings and very sharp with your objections.
They prey upon people who are blissfully engaged in being in a foreign exotic space.
Hate to admit it, but I defended myself and spouse with force (use whatever you are carrying as a defensive weapon) - that gets their attention quick and they'll move on to the next vic.
My three muggings day was many years ago - we have since been back a few times to several European cities and areas without any incident.
If you can, avoid big crowded cities in favor of the smaller towns and villages which are much nicer anyway.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:49 AM

47. When I used to travel yearly in Europe I learned one big lesson:

DO NOT HAVE YOUR PASSPORT STOLEN.

I had mine stolen in northern Italy while I was doing art history research. I had to get on a train to Milan and go to the U.S. consulate there to get an emergency passport so I could get out of Italy and in to the U.S. I had to pay $100 IN CASH (no checks or credit cards) and had to borrow the money from a fellow tour member to whom I wrote a check.

Be aware, DUers. make several copies of your passport. Put one copy in your luggage, Carry another copy on you and put your passport IN THE HOTEL SAFE. Mine was in a travel wallet that was snatched from me on the street.

Later the passport was turned in to the U.S. embassy in Rome and then sent to me here at home. But I had a lesson taught "the hard way."

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #47)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 01:52 PM

49. My wife had her passport jacked at an open market in Romania.

This was several years ago, when Europe was experiencing its coldest winter in (I think) a century.

She actually got it back, although her experience at the Deva police station where it was turned in makes for an interesting story (and not in a good way).

Your remark about the $100 was what jogged my memory. She had to hand over $200 to the Romanian cops to get it back: two $100 bills, new, clean, crisp bills only accepted.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #49)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:02 PM

50. I thought it odd that only cash was accepted by the consulate.

I thought they would let me put it on a credit card. I was wrong.

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #50)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:14 PM

52. Yeah, that surprised me when I saw it in your post.

And Thank You for the good advice you have given me about travel in Europe in past posts on DU. 🙂

My wife enjoyed Romania in general. Met many warm, caring, generous people while there (we’ll rendezvous with one of them in Nice).

She said that particular police station was like some kind of third world stereotype.

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #50)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:41 PM

77. Maybe because cash is easier for the officials to keep for themselves. nt

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #77)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:46 PM

78. I dunno about that. Wouldn't they have to justify the number of emergency passports they issued

every month or so?

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #78)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:49 PM

79. But they could charge extra and keep the overcharge cash. An overcharge would be

obvious on a credit card account of a check.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:21 PM

53. As far as Jewelry goes.......


Leave the good stuff at home. Wear cheaper rings, watches, necklaces, earrings.

I did that when we were in the UK as a precaution. Will do in Australia and New Zealand this fall.

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Response to ProudMNDemocrat (Reply #53)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:32 PM

73. Seriously. I have "travel jewelry" including a cubic zirconia wedding band. nt

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Response to Hekate (Reply #73)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:37 PM

75. The cheap stuff can look as nice......



As the real . It all depends on the arrangement. I have Cubic Zerconia as well.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 02:51 PM

60. Safety tips learned from living in Colombia for eight months

Medellin, Colombia.

There are all kinds of criminals in Medellin - pickpockets, armed thieves, thieves on buses, etc.

Rules I adopted for myself:

1. Avoid questionable areas.
2. Avoid going out at night.
3. Avoid going out alone.
4. Leave as many valuables as you can in your hotel room in a secure safe.
5. Do not show a cell phone, a laptop, or other electronic device outside your hotel room unless the place is in a very public and safe area.
6. Do not carry on your person any debit or credit cards unless you need them.
7. If a stranger approaches you or talks to you, do not allow them within arm's length distance.
8. Be aware of anyone who may be behind you or following you. If someone is following you, retreat to a safe and public place.
9. Do not wear expensive clothing or clothing that might identify where you are from.
10. Do not hail a taxi on the street. Go inside to a place of business and ask an employee to summon a taxi by phone.
11. Do not carry any more cash on your person than what you need for a particular time and place.
12. Do not carry cdebit cards, and credit cards in a pocket. Carry in a sock or some other place not obvious.
13. Carry a small ($5 or $10) bill in your pocket to be used as "throwdown" money in case you are confronted by a thief. If the thief demands money, throw the bill down on the ground and as the thief reached for it, run away.
14. Do not wear jewelry.
15. Do not wear shorts. I'm serious. Wearing shorts can identify you as a foreigner in some countries, especially in countries where the local men almost always wear long pants.

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Response to Quemado (Reply #60)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 04:54 PM

68. Sounds like fun!!!!!

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Response to LeftInTX (Reply #68)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:31 PM

82. Medellin was a lot of fun

My Colombian wife and I enjoyed our time there.

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Response to Quemado (Reply #60)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:16 PM

71. But on the other hand it is a great city with beautiful weather and very cheap prices..

....You can get to Medellin for $200+ out of Miami on Viva Colombia....or $3 to $400 on Spirit out of TPA....and my 26 story hotel in the city center is $26 a night!

https://vivaair.com/en-co

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Response to EX500rider (Reply #71)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:38 PM

85. Beautiful weather: yes; very cheap prices: yes and no

Weather:

We were there eight months. The best part of the weather was the temperature range: it never got above 85 or below 60. The worst part of the weather was that Medellin has two rainy seasons.

Very cheap prices:

The general rule about prices in Medellin: if it's a local product, it costs half as much as in the U.S. If it's imported, it costs twice as much as in the U.S. We found the purchase of real estate to be overpriced considering the lack of quality infrastructure and the robust level of crime and poverty. Rental real estate can be a bargain, depending on where you live. We left in 2015, so the real estate market may have changed.

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Response to Quemado (Reply #60)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 05:20 PM

72. Sounds a little like Quito

Although Medellín sounds worse. I actually found the people in Ecuador to be wonderfully friendly, but my Spanish is pretty much on a level of native fluency (I lived and went to school in Spain for a while), so I'm sure that helped.

Except for parts of the Balkans, the rules for some of the hairier parts of Latin America are probably a lot more laden with caution than what they are here in Europe.

My OP was more a warning for people coming here who do not know Europe well, don't know the customs or the rules, speak only English, and have never heard of the scam I described. I sure have never heard of it being used in North America anywhere.

To the one poster who wrote the "oh you poor little rich kid, having to watch out for thieves and scammers" post--I wonder how many times you have had it happen to you on another continent, as some others on this thread have. I'm sure you think it's fun to nail a Greenpeace poster to your wall, or watch MTV from Mommy's living room, or whatever it is that gets you your jollies, and to never get out into the real world, but for those of us who live there, we do have to contend with stuff like this, and forewarned is forearmed. If anyone has had some lowlife trick tried on them and wants to pass the warning on, I'm always grateful for it.

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Response to DFW (Reply #72)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:48 PM

87. We went to Quito in 2013

My wife and I were in Quito for a few days and Manta for a few days in 2013 as part of a retirement locations scouting trip. We probably weren't in Quito long enough to get a good understanding of the safety situation. We were, however, warned by gringos in Quito to not carry backpacks as that is a sign to thieves that you are a tourist and you have something of value in that backpack. Manta was safer than Quito. Manta probably doesn't get as many tourists and ex-pats as Quito gets.

When I was in the Army, I lived in Germany from 1978 to 1980. Back then, things were relatively safe in Germany, though we were warned about certain places to avoid and things we shouldn't do.

I understand that people want to visit a foreign country because they see commercials on TV that show the foreign country to be a great place for a vacation. Almost nobody warns about potential bad things that can happen.

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Response to Quemado (Reply #87)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:52 PM

88. Yes, somehow they forget to mention that part.

In Ecuador, we were guests of the government, so they kept a watchful eye on us. We had a great time, but saw the abject poverty everywhere, and understood that this was still a third world country and we were dealing with the elite.

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Response to Quemado (Reply #87)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 07:01 PM

89. Curious as to where you were stationed in Germany.

I was in 3/2 ACR, at Amberg, 1974-75. 🙂

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #89)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:57 PM

93. Augsburg

569th Personnel Services Company. I was a 75E - Person nel Actions Specialist. In country April 25, 1978 to April 24, 1980. The night I arrived home on April 24 was the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.

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Response to DFW (Original post)


Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:00 PM

80. I think I almost had something like that happen in Seattle once.

I was waiting (alone) for a bus at night and all of a sudden I was getting pummeled on the back of my head by a young guy who'd been at the bus stop, and he tried to grab my purse. I held on to a lower strap and screamed my head off and he ran away (without the bag). But then, another guy came strolling by, who I'd not seen at all previously, and who affected some concern. It really caught me off guard - then the bus came and I jumped on it - "I've been attacked! Ask this guy!" and the guy was gone, vanished. To this day, I'm fairly sure that the second guy was in on it - that if the first one wasn't successful, he'd come along, soften up the target, and then he'd take the bag.

The first guy seemed to be Russian.

I'm just glad that bus came along, because I'm firmly convinced they were working as a team.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:26 PM

81. Dress conservatively, dark clothes, helps if not brand new

I wear a backpack purse (black) and keep your head down. Been all over the world, never had an issue.
Just remember if you wear clothing that makes you stand out, that might not be good.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 06:34 PM

83. Thanks for the warning!

I will be in Europe two weeks from yesterday for a couple of weeks...and be alert to this new game.

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:45 PM

92. Watch this pair of pros pick the pockets of an entire railway carriage



from Robert Bresson's 1959 classic film "Pickpocket" . . . very enlightening!

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Response to DFW (Original post)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 06:49 AM

97. Thanks for providing your fellow DU travelers with this tip!

When I was in Germany and other countries back in February and March, this never happened to me, thank god, or to anyone else I could see. I was just lucky and in the right place and at the right time.

Really simple travel tip that everyone should know by now: Keep your passport and wallet in your FRONT pants pocket or at least somewhere highly secure, like a purse slung across your body in the front. I've heard that the large "purses" that you fasten around like a belt can be easily cut off with a sharp knife by someone in a hurry. Maybe the makers of these purses have made them much more theft-resistant by now.

Best wishes to you and your family, DFW!

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