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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Gypsy-robbed

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I know most of us have been schooled in keeping our good stuff, ie valuables, out of sight and know how to not look like an obvious tourist.....BUT, I thought I'd share two stories of two friends who were robbed last year in broad daylight in Brussels.  And to leave you with a smile, I'll tell you what a former coworker did in Rome to thwart thieves there, one of the most high-powered theft areas in Europe!

I had a friend who traveled around Brussels by car.  You feel pretty safe in a car, don't you?  I know I did til I talked to her.  She was in the passenger seat of an average-looking European vehicle, digging through her purse, looking for some gum.  Before she even knew what was happening at that red light, some thief had ripped open her door and took off with her purse.  It was so shocking and brazen, that by the time her husband pulled over and gave chase, the thief was long gone.  She lost all her ID and of course all their money, as she was carrying ALL of it (Tip #1 & 2:  Split up your money and keep cars doors locked from the moment you get into your car).

The other theft happened over the holidays.  The victim boarded a city bus with her two young daughters, only to be separated from her girls as they got on first.  Two ladies were physically blocking her way, and she was so focused about being separated from her children and trying to get to the back of the bus to them, she ignored the jostling at the door.  As the bus driver prodded them all on (they were blocking the aisle), the two ladies suddenly jumped off the bus right before it left the stop.  As the victim made it to the back of the bus, she noticed that her wallet was missing from her purse.  Her purse had snaps and not a zipper.  She chose this purse earlier in the day, because it looked cute with her boots.  It was not so cute after she lost her wallet (Tip #3:  Never use a purse that doesn't zip smartly shut;  keep your purse close to your body with the zipper facing the front).

Even though the police were called in both instances, no stolen items were recovered.  The police were very kind up there in Brussels and helped as best they could, so that was nice to hear.  The police actually told my one friend that the ladies on the bus were probably gypsies, who are experts in this type of scam....but don't get lured into thinking that only people who look like thieves are the ones doing the robbing.  I saw a stylishly dressed man in a business suit try to reach into another man's pocket once on a bus but quickly pretended he was scratching his crotch when I made eye contact with him.  Many of these thieves also work in two and three person teams, so the chips area already stacked against you to begin with!

The last story involves a co-worker who went to Rome.  Now Rome I think is known as the pickpocket capital of the world!  You could probably write a book on the methods crooks use there to separate you from your valuables!  Well, my friend thought he would be funny (I don't recommend this) and purchased 10, yes 10 wallets at the dollar store.  He loaded them all up with paper to make them look like they contained the motherload.  He placed them at various points in his jacket, pants, shirt...wherever there was a pocket or crevice, there was a wallet....he even had one in his sock!  He spent a few hours riding public transportation and moving through crowds.  At the end of the day, he ONLY HAD TWO WALLETS LEFT!  That's right.....if you can do basic math like I think I can, that means eight were stolen!  He tried to think back and remember when it could've happened, and he could only seriously think of two instances where he actually "felt something".....all he could say was, boy, were they good.  He wanted to try it again with the two remaining wallets, with his teenage son providing overwatch, so they could "catch someone in the act".  Of course his wife put a stop to that game, and that was the end of that experiment.  Of course, around the same time, acquaintances of ours were driving in Rome and left an Ipod on the backseat of their vehicle (blame it on the teenager in the family)....they woke up to a broken-in car window and no Ipod or anything else of value left in the car  (Tips #4 & 5:  Don't try to go head-to-head with professional crooks, as things can go wrong AND don't leave valuables visibly out, or better yet, secure them in a safer location).

Do you have any anti-pickpocket tips to share?



Blogger They Told Me to Write said...

Great tips! As careful as I am I tend to get too comfortable and trusting. I really enjoy your blog. Found it before moving to Germany 6 months ago.

January 19, 2011 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

Getting mugged is always on my mind when we're traveling. So far we've been lucky when in Cairo and Athens, but now you've made me nervous about going to Rome!

January 19, 2011 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Please don't be afraid...just be aware of your surroundings, which it looks like you are already doing! Keep your important things "on the inside" towards your body. In fact, in Rome, I'd keep my important stuff out of purses and bags....just too much of a risk, and just watch out for people trying to distract you, especially if it is more than one person.

You'll have fun in Rome, especially this time of year, when it is a bit quieter than with the summer tourist rush:-)

January 20, 2011 at 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

That's crazy about the guy and the wallets! I lived in Rome for over 3 years and am still down there all the time staying in our property here. I was never pickpocketed. I rode public transportation every day too and I have to say, I wasn't overly vigilant about my purse...BUT the key is to blend in. It's really easy to spot tourists ESPECIALLY Americans, not so much on what they (we) wear (though Americans do dress badly most of the time compared to Romans) but it's that they are SO FREAKING LOUD. Whenever they talk it's like a siren going off to all the thieves: ATTENTION RICH AMERICAN! haha. Additionally, staring at maps constantly is another give away. Gypsies tend not to target the locals so the more you stay quiet and act like you belong the better your chances of nothing happening :) The best advice I was given is to make sure you put your purse on your lap at cafes, especially the outdoor ones.

January 20, 2011 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Thanks Jessica...I believe you are right! We do tend to draw that attention to ourselves! Blending in is ALWAYS a good thing I think!

BTW, I didn't want anyone to be scared about going to Rome....just want people to remember to stay alert as they would anywhere else (because we tend to get complacent at home I think).

January 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM  

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