Professional Pickpocket Gives 5 Tips for Avoiding Summer Travel Theft

PHOTO: A man getting pickpocketed.
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How's this for a job title? Professional pickpocket.

Bob Arno has built a career tracking street crime and then demonstrating thieves' unbelievable moves to stunned audiences in Las Vegas and around the world during an act he bills as "Con-Man Comedy."

With the London 2012 Olympics right around the corner, Arno shared with "20/20" his tips for how to avoid becoming the victim of theft while traveling to the U.K. and elsewhere this summer.

Watch the full story on "20/20: Vacation Confidential" online.

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The Old Pickpocket Trick

Pickpocketing has been around since loincloths got pockets, but it's increasing drastically in London and all across Europe. It has become more organized, with gang leaders buying or leasing youngsters under the age of legal responsibility. These kids, under pressure to bring in their "quota," are more desperate than ever and attempt more brazen thefts.

Remedy: Keep your valuables under your clothing and be extremely vigilant at ATMs. Be sure your Social Security number is not in your wallet.

PHOTO: Pigeons.
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The Pigeon Poop Pickpocket Trick

It's hard to turn away a kindly good Samaritan who wants to help you with a real -- and vile -- problem. You've been dirtied with something disgusting -- often fake "pigeon poop" and lately actual feces. The con artists who secretly put it on you (or their partners did) use the physical contact of cleaning you off to clean you out. They pick your pocket or, if you set down your bag, run off with it.

Remedy: Sadly, we just can't trust strangers approaching out of the blue. Antennas up!

PHOTO: Smart phone on train table.
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Smartphone Theft

Smart phones are five times more likely to be stolen than wallets or cameras. (iPads are equally attractive, though harder to steal.) More than 50 percent of thefts in European capitals this summer are expected to be of smartphones -- unless you help change the trend.

Remedy: Don't leave your phone on a restaurant table or in an easy backpack pocket. Be aware that they are often swiped right out of users' hands. Try to limit the personal information stored in the phone, and use a passcode.

PHOTO: Police Officer in Sunglasses.
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Fake Cops

Naturally, we respect authority. A subset of nasty thieves we call "pseudo-cops" exploit this tendency by flashing fake badges and demanding to examine your cash. They claim to be looking for victims of counterfeiters and will take your cash "for examination," or take a portion of it without you noticing.

Remedy: Do not show your cash or wallet. Police officers do not check the cash of random passersby. Ask to take a good look at his badge and police ID. A real cop won't mind at all. A pseudo-cop will move on to a more gullible mark.

PHOTO: The Official London 2012 Olympic Games website.
http://www.london2012.com/
Fraudulent Websites

Opportunists are working overtime online offering bogus Olympic tickets and nonexistent accommodations in London. London Metropolitan Police recommend buying Olympic tickets only from the official site, and have reported dozens of known fraudulent websites selling tickets and accommodations.

Remedy: Buy Olympic tickets from official vendors only. Buy accommodations from known and trusted sites or travel agents. Use a credit card to pay for your tickets and accommodations.

For full explanations on thefts, cons, and scams, check out Bob Arno's Thiefhunters in Paradise.

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