Pickpocket bus 'scam' in Puntarenas, Costa Rica (May 2012)
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Aug 26, 2012 7:12 PM Last Post By: toniamonkey
Aug 16, 2012 4:53 AM
Pickpocket bus 'scam' in Puntarenas, Costa Rica (May 2012)I thought some of you might benefit from hearing about how I was pick-pocketed in Puntarenas in May 2012.
I got off a ferry in Puntarenas after spending a great few days on the Nicoya. It was hot so I was happy to see a city bus onto which a bunch of Ticos were getting just outside the ferry docks. I asked and it was indeed going by the bus terminal. So I hoped in.
Ten minutes later, my stop was called so I stood up to debark. Immediately, a man stuck himself against my back and pushed lightly--not enough for me to get my guard up but enough for me not to be able to put my pack on my back, which is my standard routine. No big deal, I thought, I'll just carry it against my stomach with my two arms.
Next, the woman in front of me dropped a few things on the ground and started freaking out that I was stepping on them. I couldn't back up because the man behind me kept the pressure on my back. I couldn't see what I was doing as my bag was covering my view down. And, again, both my hands and arms were occupied holding my pack so they couldn't be in their standard spot when we're in a busy area: guarding my pockets at my side.
So picture this: this woman is pushing at my feet and legs (and going into my pocket) and I'm basically doing a dance to try not to step on her things--because I'm a nice (naive) guy. Then, suddenly, she stopped and walked out the back door. I followed her off the bus, unawares. Within 5 seconds of debarking, I was back on my routine with my pack on my back and my hands at my sides and I noticed immediately that my pocket had been upzipped and that my wallet was gone. My travel companion said that she noticed the guy who was behind me suddenly abandon his intention of debarking through the rear door with me and instead went out the front and down a side street. I could still see the woman who had been in front of me. I contemplated running after her (and did so for a minute) but soon lost her. Even if I had found her, I was just calling for a confrontation that would be unlikely to end well.
So I just let it go and learned that when something bizarre seems to be happening around me, it's probably not a coincidence. Five months in Latin America and my only incident was in the 'safest' of countries. Oh, well...
Aug 16, 2012 5:44 AM
1well, nobody ever said your money would be "safe"!
i am sorry this happened to you. it is an occurrence that, while not exactly common, does happen with regularity. obviously, gringo tourists are targeted.
i hope that it did not cause you too much trouble and thanks for posting your experience. it's a good warning to others.
Aug 16, 2012 5:50 AM
2Don't feel alone. Get yourself one of these.
Aug 16, 2012 6:58 AM
Aug 16, 2012 7:35 AM
I dont carry a wallet in these parts in my rear pocket, they can also hit the pocket with a razor blade and slice a line and the wallet drops out.
Keep everything in front cargo pockets...or your carry on day pack.backpack
Think about this, why do you need a big wallet in CA? All you need os a few CC and your ID, everything else can be stored in a day bag/ or even left at home. I never show cash either, keep bulk of it in one front left pocket, and then day money on your right front pocket...
Aug 16, 2012 5:58 PM
Aug 16, 2012 8:08 PM
Aug 16, 2012 10:22 PM
7What #4 said (before he went off the rails): don't carry a wallet. The only thing a wallet in your pocket accomplishes is signaling to anyone interested where you keep your money.
My signal that someone's about to try to pick my pocket is that feeling of suddenly being trapped or funneled into a confined space--between cars, between buildings, between people, in an aisle..... As soon as I feel that sudden sense of being unexpectedly confined physically, I stop dead, spin around, duck down, or do whatever else I can think of to disrupt the flow. It takes a very skilled pickpocket to rob you while you're moving freely--that's why they try to immobilize you, and why they concentrate on narrow spaces and tight crowds. After that, all it takes is an excuse for physical contact--pressing tight in a crowd or queue, dabbing mustard off your jacket after squirting it on there, or merely bumping you for no real reason.
No one's ever taken anything off me yet, but lots have tried. It helps that I don't have much available to be taken from my pockets--no wallet, little cash, and anything of any real importance rides under my clothes in a wire-reinforced moneybelt. This has proven just as handy in Barcelona and Paris as it has anywhere in the Developing World.
Hope that's helpful to someone, somewhere, The steady litany of reports of people whose wallets get taken out of their pockets is kind've depressing.
Aug 17, 2012 3:18 AM
8Not long ago I was in the central square of Prague on a sunny and very crowded day. Hourly even more people pack into the square to watch the church figurines chiming. Its like sardines and probably one of the easiest and most notorious areas for pick pockets. Yet as I sat outside a bar on the edge of the square I was amazed by the number of men who just had bulging wallets loose in their open rear pockets and women with flappy handbags just hung over their shoulders and were completely distracted. The woman next to me had not even noticed that her handbag had got nudged so it was further under my table than it was under hers. People just never seem to learn....
Aug 17, 2012 7:58 AM
Aug 17, 2012 11:53 AM
10and do not carry things in your cargo pockets of your pants. i told a friend of mine not to do this, he knew more than me, put everything in his cargo pants pockets and then spent a day of his time, not mine, at the embassy getting two passports replaced. i have used under your clothes, close to your body for years and never had a problem. it still amazes me every time i see some gringo, that includes europeans, with a wallet in their back pocket when travelling.
Aug 17, 2012 6:53 PM
11Thanks for posting your experience - your inconvenience and discomfort may cause others to use a bit of extra caution or to be watchful for a similar experience.
There was a couple reports of pickpockets at Calgary Stampede (100th anniversary, record attendance nubmers... good conditions for the nefarious) this year --- unfortunately, it doesn't seem to matter where you are on the planet for this opportunity crime to happen.
I hope you got back on the road without too much hassle.
Aug 17, 2012 11:32 PM
12During the Vietnam war US sailors on R&R in the Philippines were having their wallets stolen by having their shirt pocket sliced with a double-edge razor.
They came up with this idea......take your standard billfold type wallet. Put one half in your pants. Take the other half and put it between your outer pants and belt. Tighten belt. Leave shirt untucked. Simple and it surprisingly works.
A beer belly that hangs over the belt is an added layer of security.
Aug 26, 2012 7:12 PM
13I would rather be pickpocketed than have a gun stuck in my head like they do here in the US. But I am glad for the warning it reminds me to pay attention and not leave my common sense at home while on vacation. I will be in CR on Sept 5th. I am so looking forward to being a tourist. I am a concierge at a large resort in a beach town in Florida, so it is now MY TURN! LOL. I cannot imagine acting like some of the guests I encounter. Some are awesome but others......
(5 star Hotel)
From US$261.19 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$504.99 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$15.36 per night