Updated: Dec 17, 2020
We've all done it. We've all stuck our cell phone in our back pocket while out in public. It could be while running errands, heading to work, going to dinner, meeting friends, at a sporting event, or any other situation where the most convenient place (or the only place) to stick your cell phone is in your back pocket. Many women who carry purses also put their phone in their back pocket so it's more easily accessible than buried in the bottom of a cluttered handbag where alerts might not be heard or felt.
The problem is that with a single bump in the crowd or a momentary distraction in the store, your cell phone with all of your data, contacts, photos, and more, can be gone in an instant without you even noticing. This doesn't just happen in the movies when the "spy" bumps into some "target" and then walks off with their wallet and watch (and let's face it, nowadays your phone and all its content is likely more valuable than both combined).
Pickpockets typically aren't easy to spot as they cross all demographic boundaries and stereotypes, often dressing to blend in. They're usually very skilled with "sleight of hand" theft techniques and often work in teams, sometimes employing children or teens, to help distract unsuspecting victims. While pickpockets are more common in Europe (often preying upon distracted tourists) than in the United States, with the ever-increasing value of cell phones, this age-old form of stealing remains a constant threat.
When your cell phone is sticking out of your back pocket in public spaces and in crowds, you quickly become a very easy target. Moreover, when you carry your phone in your back pocket, every time you sit down you have to take your phone out of your pocket, and set down someplace, often on a table or bar. This scenario of setting down your phone, plays out in restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and bars worldwide every day, making millions of patrons one distraction away from a stolen phone (or from just walking off and forgetting their phone).
Part of the insidiousness behind someone quietly stealing your phone, is that often it goes unnoticed, until you reach for it and it's not there. Then, in the haze of a panicked memory, your mind races to retrace your steps and you question yourself; "Did I put it in my pocket when I got up to leave?" Did I set it on the counter at the checkout?" "Did it fall out of my pocket when I bent over to tie my shoe?"
Because your phone goes in-and-out of your pocket dozens (if not hundreds) of times every day, your memory can become blurred when trying to recall the last time you had your phone. Meanwhile, the thief has quietly and quickly moved on to their next easy target.
Three Quick Tips To Protect Yourself from Pickpockets
While it’s unlikely to make yourself 100% pickpocket-proof, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and avoid being an easy target.
1. Don't carry your phone (or other valuables) in your back pocket. While this is an obvious precaution, it can be a very hard habit to break when convenience and complacency often override security. The reality is that carrying your phone or wallet in your back pocket in public is just never a good idea. A front-pocket, a jacket-pocket, zipped in a purse, or secured in an accessory like MyPhonePouch is a much safer phone-carrying alternative than in your back pocket. Any solution where your phone is carried on the front side of your body is better than carrying it in your back pocket.
2. Stop setting your phone on the table when you’re eating. Beyond being somewhat rude and preventing you from being fully present with your dining companions, setting your phone on the table makes it much easier for it to get stolen or simply left behind. Whether you’re dining alone, waiting for your companion, or choose to use your phone at the table, always be aware that pickpockets could be targeting you as the "distract-grab-walk" is a very common theft technique. MyPhonePouch is a perfect solution for keeping your phone secure on your hip rather than laying it on the table or bar, and because it pivots with you as you move, no more taking your phone out of your pocket and setting it down every time you sit down. By keeping your phone secure in the pouch while sitting, it dramatically reduces the chances of your phone getting stolen (or simply forgotten) while sitting in public places.
3. Be alert and maintain situational awareness. It may sound simple but with our hectic, distracted, on-the-go lifestyles, it's always a good reminder to stay alert and pay attention. Watch out for your belongings, and be aware of the people, crowds and distractions around you. Don't hang your purse on the back of a chair. Keep your bags between your feet under the table. Keep your jacket and purse pockets zipped. Don't leave belongings unattended even briefly. Avoid getting so lost in your phone (and in your headphones) that you aren't paying enough attention to the people and situations around you. When distractions happen, keep your belongings even more secure. Be more vigilant of your valuables in crowds.
Lastly, always take a moment to slow down and triple-check that you have everything accounted for - your phone, your credit card, your wallet, your purse, your jacket - before you get up to leave one place and move on to another. And remember to resist getting lulled into bad habits of complacency for the sake of convenience.
Have you or anyone you know every had your phone stolen or left your phone behind in a restaurant or store? Let us know what you think and share your lessons learned.