Emily Flowers

From the blog

I was pickpocketed in Barcelona! True tales (and advice) from the victims


Image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrolibraryarchive/

Barcelona is such an amazing vibrant city, much like Vegas, much like New York, and much like Paris. No city is perfect, and Barcelona is no exception. Though Barcelona is pretty safe for violent crime, it has a reputation for its rash of non-violent petty theft: the pickpocket. Even today, during the middle of the day, someone grabbed a girl’s pocketbook in the street and ran with it. It’s a jungle out there. A beautiful jungle, but a jungle all the same. Read on for some of their most common tricks as told by their victims.

A silent petition

“I was walking outside in the park in front of the Sagrada Familia,” Sandra R. from Sussex, England recounted, “It was a perfect spring day in May. The sun was shining and I was just feeling so relaxed and festive on vacation in Barcelona. We had just exited the cathedral where I was in awe of the beauty of everything. I totally had my guard down.”

What Sandra and countless others failed to realize is that the criminals prey on the blissed out vacationer as his/her meal ticket. Sadly your open aura and smiling face are the signals the crooks pick up on and want to take advantage of.

“I was just standing there. I was waiting for my hubby to come back with the ice cream and snacks we were going to eat on the bench in the park. He went over to queue in front of the kiosk when I was approached by some teens that were on the smaller side and had smiles on their faces. They walked over to me with these purple manila folders and started pointing at a paper that was attached. It looked like a petition. It had a few different languages on it. It said something about a charity for the deaf. They motioned that they couldn’t speak and kept pointing and urging me to sign. It was a bit of a sight, and I wasn’t totally paying attention as it was all happening so fast. Also, I’m a pretty sympathetic person who always ends up giving or signing up for a new charity, like Oxfam International, when their representatives approach me in the street.”

“I signed the document. They walked away and I kept waiting for my husband. It was only when my husband came back and asked me to hand him the map in my bum bag (that I had in front of me to protect from the pick pocketers-oh the irony!) that I realized I had just been pick pocketed by the “deaf” petitioners. They took my wallet. It had 500 in cash, 2 credit cards (which I canceled immediately, and my driver’s license. We would have filed a police report, but we had plans that afternoon to meet some friends for dinner, and were flying back home in the morning. I’m not sure it would have done any good. My advice is don’t trust anyone. They like to act disabled, etc, because it plays with your sense of empathy. Just another way to distract you while they steal.”

Apparently this is a common trick. Sometimes they are deaf, sometimes not. While they get you to sign the petition, they use the folder as an obstruction to take their hand under it and steal from your bag. There are some legitimate charities out there like UNICEF, Oxfam, or Doctors without Borders, but they are clearly labeled and wearing a lot of their organizations’ garb. These people just have some sort of folders (usually purple for some reason) that they picked up from a stationery store.

Lizard on the beach

Jill is one of the many people in Barcelona who became a victim of the “lizard” move. No, the “lizard” is not some new sort of dance step. It’s a sneaky move that the thieves use on the beach. Ever notice how the beach has a pretty drastic drop to get to the break? Well, while you’re above on the sand, the thieves are crawling on their belly, like a lizard, and grabbing your bag above, from below. You never see them in the dark of night.

“I was with a group of friends playing guitar on the beach at night,” Jill says. “Things must have been getting intense with the jam session, we really didn’t have our eyes off my bag for more than 5 minutes and it was just taken. I had left it in front of my feet. When we decided to leave, it was gone. We kept searching for it. I was convinced it had somehow became buried in the sand. I couldn’t believe it had gotten stolen. 

 I was so naive when I first arrived in Barcelona. I started asking these random guys (who were by themselves) if they had seen anyone. It was only later I realized why they were so apathetic, they were all “fishing” as they said they were, but not for fish, but for people’s stuff.”

Be careful with your stuff on the beach at night. You’ll see a few weird men here and there acting as if they’re trying to admire the beauty of the beach in the moonlight, but really they’re just hunting for their next target.

Things to keep you safe in barcelona

Yes, it’s a great city, but it’s not perfect. Because it is so fun and beautiful, and full of tourists, it makes it a perfect city for the thieves to target. Many thieves are just opportunistic (so don’t leave your stuff out), but many are professionals, so just leave your truly valuable things in the hotel. Don’t let the pick pockets in Barcelona, ruin Barcelona!

I don’t want to scare you, but many people let their guard down when they come here because it’s so pretty. It doesn’t seem as dangerous as a developing country, but if you take the same precautions that you would deep in South America, you’ll be just fine. 

Who else has had a run in with a pick pocket? What advice would you give?


  1. Kristina Marie - July 11, 2016 9:45 pm

    The only time I have EVER been pick pocketed in my LIFE is in Barcelona. But I love it just the same and moved here from London as soon as I could possibly do so, despite this tiny hiccup. It was (at the time) a brand new phone in my backpack. He stood too close to me, barely touching me…for which reason I immediately on instinct upon having lived in Hong Kong, LA, & London– turned around, all street smart and said “No me tocas!!!!!”

    What happened then? My husband jumps up to my ‘rescue’ (naturally) and someone else takes the phone. In under 5 seconds I reckon. We were targeted for sure. Aaaaaccck – embarrassing, but I have never been so lackadaisical since!!

    • admin - July 24, 2016 11:52 am

      That’s crazy that you caught them in the act and they were guileless enough to continue! I had to learn about them the hard way as well.


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