You might be on vacation. But that doesn't mean the thieves are.
Travelers are usually carefree people who are out to see the sights and learn about a different place or culture. But they too often are targets of pickpockets.
A new study by the travel review site TripAdvisor shows the top 10 places its members tend to encounter the thieves. While pickpockets can strike anywhere, TripAdvisor found the most frequently reported places to be European cities with grand outdoor attractions.
"When in a high-traffic tourists setting, you really need to be on your toes," warns the site's Brooke Ferencsik.
"You're looking at some very popular European cities with some great tourist attractions, many of them outdoors," he said. "Those unfortunately represent some great targets for pickpockets."
TripAdvisor members reported that in Rome, for instance, wallets and purses were most often stolen near the Trevi Fountain. In Paris, it was the Eiffel Tower and in Athens, the Acropolis. Granted, these are also some of the most-visited sites in all of Europe, which is why they might be high on the list.
"I wish we had the answers to why. Our suspicions are mostly anecdotal," Ferencsik said.
But it makes sense, he noted, that outdoor settings with large crowds would have a lot of theft.
In museums, the thieves might have to pay admission and there are security staff and cameras. Escape isn't as easy. Outside, it's a lot easier to pick a pocket and disappear into the crowd.
TripAdvisor compiled its data by searching though its members' reviews. It's self reporting, but offers a bit more insight than official crime statics because pocket-picking isn't always reported to the police. The majority of the website's users are in America and the United Kingdom, which explains why Spain -- a popular vacation spot among Britons -- takes up four places on the top 10 list.
The Top 10 Pickpocket Cities
There are plenty of tips to thwart pickpockets, but first, here is the list of top cities for pickpockets:
#1: Barcelona, Spain
#3: Paris, France
#4: Madrid, Spain
#5: Athens, Greece
#6: Prague, Czech Republic
#7: Costa Blanca (Alicante Province), Spain
#8: Lisbon, Portugal
#9: Tenerife, Spain
Carl Unger, associate editor at the travel website SmarterTravel, notes that "Barcelona is famous for its pickpockets" but agrees that some spots – like the big public places – are more likely to draw thieves.
"Any place where people are standing around, gawking at something, is a place that pickpockets are likely to target because they know there are people traveling with money who really aren't paying attention to their surroundings," he said.
Most travelers don't experience theft. But he says every traveler should prepare for it. Unger offers several tips to minimize the risk of pickpockets.
Carry as Little as Possible: Hold onto whatever cash you need for the day, a credit card and your driver's license. Unger said everything else should be left back in your hotel safe. Why carry around your passport or other vital documents?
"Leave them somewhere where they are not at risk," he said.
Avoid the Back Pocket: Your back pocket is an easy target, especially in crowded areas. Some travelers prefer a money belt for added security.
"Personally, I've felt comfortable putting things in your front pocket," Unger said. "You can always keep you hand on it."
Wear Bags Across Chest: Carrying a messenger bag or purse just on your shoulder is a mistake, Unger said. Slinging it across your chest instead makes it a lot harder for a thief to grab it and run off.
Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets
Secure Your Bag When Sitting: Placing a purse on the table where you can see it might seem right, but somebody can easily swipe it and run off before you can get out of your seat. Pacing it under a table or chair offers its own risks as somebody can sneak into it and steal your cash. So find a happy medium where your bag is at least attached to you, the table or a chair.
Prepare for the Worst: Even well-prepared travelers can fall victim to an experienced pickpocket. Make sure you have contact information for your bank and bring photocopies of important documents, such as your passport.
Relax: Worrying every second about pickpockets can ruin a vacation. Take preventive steps but don't obsess over it.
"Just take common-sense precautions and don't let it ruin your vacation," Unger said. "It's good to understand that this problem exists and there are things you can do about it."