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How to Protect Yourself against Pickpockets in Amsterdam

August 21, 2017/ BY Alina

Pickpockets are unfortunately a big part of the Amsterdam streets. Especially during the holidays, many of these snatchers are active. A lot of gullible and unwary tourists fall prey to these sneaky criminals. Because forewarned is forearmed, we’d like to inform you about how these pickpockets operate and how to outsmart them.

Popular pickpocket places

Some things speak for themselves, like never leaving your bag unattended. However, there are places where you need to be extra alert to pickpockets. These petty criminals like to strike often in the following places:

pick pocket from bag

Public transportation

Especially in the tram, the metro and down at the (train) station. As a tourist, you’re often just focused to find your stop. Watching all your belongings at the same time can be difficult. Pickpockets love to take this opportunity to lift your wallet from your back pocket.

Busy events and markets

Markets are a great way to explore the local culture. However, bag snatchers know tourists love to visit certain events and markets, too. As you can imagine, it’s a lot easier to grab a purse in busy areas than in an empty street.


Basically, all places where you are waiting are a pickpocket’s stage. Whether queuing in a store, waiting for a tourist attraction, or just enjoying a street performance. Snatchers often strike people that are distracted while standing in a crowd. Another favored place is at the ATM, especially when you’re waiting your turn or when you’re withdrawing money. Always pay attention to your surroundings!

Sneaky snatcher’s stratagems

Over the years, pickpockets became sharper and more inventive when it comes to stealing valuables from tourists. The main used tactic is to distract the victim so he won’t notice he’s missing something until it’s too late. Examples of these distractions are:

pickpocket striking in queue

Asking for directions or a fire for their cigarette

Snatcher know very well you’re a tourist and probably not familiar with the area. However, while you’re trying to explain that (or even helping), an accomplice makes his move. A couple of minutes later you notice your bag is open and your iPad is missing…

Tripping and falling

Suddenly someone falls off the stairs. Or someone trips over their own feet out of nowhere. Chances are you are distracted for a brief moment. You try to comprehend what just happens and watch or help someone get back on their feet. In the meantime, their accomplice uses the distraction to picks some pockets.

Oops! My bad…

More than once, snatchers try to fish your wallet from your pockets while they distract you physically. They bump into you or spill something on you: “how clumsy of me, let me clean that for you”. Unfortunately, your pockets are cleaned afterward as well.

Fake cops

They often try to pull this one on Asian tourists. Pickpockets pretend to be undercover cops and ask you to see your (bank) cards and passports. They try to intimidate and distract you and before you know it, you’re missing some credit cards and cash. If you’re pulled aside by someone who claims to be a cop, always be cautious. Propose to deal with it at the police station while you keep an eye on your belongings. A real agent won’t have a problem with this, but pickpockets will disappear quickly.

5 tips to outsmart thieves and pickpockets

Last but not least, a brief checklist with what you can do to arm against street thieves:

  • Keep your valuables as close to your body as possible.
  • Carry your shoulder bag around your arm and your neck (this makes it harder to steal the entire bag). In busy areas, wear your (back) pack on your front.
  • Make sure your wallet is deep inside your bag. Don’t put it below the front zipper on in your pocket.
  • Never leave your bag unattended or your phone/wallet on a table.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas or when you’re using your wallet or phone.

pickpocket stealing from backpack

Looking for more tips for your trip to Amsterdam? Read some of the following articles:

> Discover the Vondelpark
> Find the 8 Best Shopping Streets in Amsterdam
> Enjoy these 5 things at Leidseplein
> Find out how De Pijp became an Amsterdam Hotspot

Of course, our travel department is always happy to answer your questions. 

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