A Funny Thing happened on the Trek to the Forum – Coins, Pickpockets and Candy!

Since all roads lead to Rome, no trek is complete without a visit to this historic city.
Having just seen a rerun of the film, “Three Coins in the Fountain” featuring the Trevi Fountain in Rome, I decided to venture on a coin throwing quest to this famous fountain.

Each day, approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown in the fountain by countless visitors.  I managed to get there early before the crowds, threw my coins in, and wished for good luck.  As you will see later, it worked!
On my way back, I wanted to savor the local flavor of the city.  After all, when in Rome do as the Romans do, so I made my way to Termini station to ride the train with the crowds.  I noticed signs posted throughout the station reading, “Beware of Pickpockets”, and I was careful to keep my hands in my pocket on my wallet.  I should point out that I am a seasoned New York subway rider, and thereby an expert at spotting pickpockets.  On entering the Termini metro train, I noticed a few suspicious characters, so I moved to the other side, keeping a watchful eye on them and my hand in my pocket.

I stood next to a young mother and her baby in a stroller.  The baby was smiling sweetly at me with cherub cheeks and clutching a lollipop in her chubby fingers.  In a magnanimous Roman gesture, the little angel stretched out her hand offering me her lollipop.  Instinctively I reached out, but then put my hand back in my pocket only to feel a hand already in there!  I grabbed on to the hand… and was shocked to see it was the young mother trying to pick my pocket using her baby as an accomplice!

When I told my wife the story, she said, “You should know never to take candy from a baby”.

Bob Arno (ex-pick pocket artist) says that approximately 300 people get their pockets picked daily in Rome.  I am lucky bambi vincentnot to have been one of the victims.  I guess the fountain granted my wishes for good luck!

On your treks, you need to be careful to avoid getting robbed.  Unfortunately, in some places thieves and pickpockets are exceptionally skilled, so you have to be very vigilant.  I guess their training commences at an an early age.

The mother and child team of pickpockets were Roma gypsies, and travelers are always warned about gypsy thieves.  ( The pic on the left shows a mother and child on the prowl.  The newspaper is used as cover when the hand slips in your pocket or purse).

This gives the Roma people a bad reputation because many of them are hard working, decent people, who have faced discrimination for centuries.

Gypsies in a shanty town in Madrid, SpainRoma gypsies originated from India, and left their homeland about 1,500 years ago.  According to researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Spain, the Roma first came to the Balkans and then spread to the surrounding areas in Europe about nine centuries ago.  Today, there are about 11 million gypsies in Europe.

Gypsy performersNowadays, apart from pick pocketing gypsy babies, travelers need to fear electronic pick pocketing.  Have you ever heard of RFID?

Most Credit, Debit, ATM cards contain embedded RFID (radio frequency identification technology) chips. Such chips encode basic information (e.g., account numbers, expiration dates) that can be picked up by point-of-sale RFID readers, eliminating the need for cards to be physically handled or swiped.  This opens the possibility for unauthorized persons using RFID readers of their own to access your information.

Criminals can use a card reader and a netbook computer to copy account information from RFID-enabled cards that are carried in people’s pockets and purses.  This is known as “card skimming”.  To avoid this, I always carry two or three cards side by side together in one sleeve. If anyone tries to skim, he or she will get a jumble of comingled data from the three cards that wouldn’t make sense.  This is a simple solution that I recommend, unless you want to purchase an RFID blocking sleeve or case seen below.rfid

Read more at: Link – RFID article

Link – Advice from Bob Arno, pickpocket king

I hope that one day you get a chance to visit the Trevi Fountain and throw your coins in for good luck!  You don’t need to rush, after all Rome was not built in a day!  If you have already visited, please share your experiences with me!

Categories: adventure travel, author, food, foreign travel, global, kasbah, lifestyle, novel, photography, pick pockets, RFID skimming, river, Roma gypsies, roman cities, Termini Station, travel, trekking, Trevi Fountain, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

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71 thoughts on “A Funny Thing happened on the Trek to the Forum – Coins, Pickpockets and Candy!

  1. Thanks for the visit and following my blogs, you have a great facinating site, the story on the pickpockets reminds me of my time in Chile South America where carrying a camera was a dead giveway, I look forward to following your interesting blogs.
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    This site is purely my Love and Romance site.
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    Aussie Emu aka Aussie Ian

  2. Considering the gypsy costumes in the photo, it seems to me they could well with a boutique and mail order business, but of course what’s the thrill in that?

  3. Well written. I, too, had my pocket picked in Rome but she wasn’t very good and, like you, my hand grabbed hers before she got anything. The beggars in Barcelona were slightly better but they couldn’t run as fast as me and I got my wallet back. These days, if I’m in a place where my cash might be at risk – usually big cities – I make sure I’m wearing something with at least one pocket with a firm zip or multiple buttons, an inside pocket if possible. No point in making it easy for them.

    • Zip works well! However a colleague discovered that his pocket was slit and wallet gone only when he got back to his hotel. He doesn’t know when it happened. I have a habit of keeping my hands in my pocket. I think that helps a bit 🙂

  4. In Europe Romas are seen a lot of times as Romanians, because here live are many of them, even though now a lot of them migrated to other countries. It rises negative stereotypes and many people don’t like Romanians, because they associate them Romas and pick-pockets. It’s such a complicated subject…

  5. I am very wary of the trend to make credit cards more hands-off at the point of sale. I would much prefer to sign or tap in my pin – a couple of extra seconds at the checkout is usually not going to alter my life significantly. I had inadvertently been following your advice and will pass it on to others.

  6. Great post. I’ve read the Guidebooks warning us about the pickpockets in Rome but have never actually heard of someone actually catching a pickpocket’s hand in their pocket. Wow! And another wow that no one on the train seemed to care!

  7. Wow! Very educational, here. I don’t travel much, but I love hearing about the experiences of those who do. Your style is engaging and cohesive – thank you. 🙂

  8. We loved our trip to Rome and managed to avoid the pick-pocketers. Thanks for the information about card skimming ~ good advice!

  9. I remember those Rome pickpocket scammers. I recall seeing a very old lady, bent and shuffling through a crowded area. I had heard that sometimes a pickpocket will pose as an old woman. I watched as she left the area, then suddenly stood up and walked away briskly. Yikes.

  10. Informative post and a great reminder of good times I have had in this, my favourite city. I never suffered from the pickpockets but I was twice cleverly ripped off by taxi drivers….easily solved, don’t use the taxis 🙂

  11. Thanks for the RFID tip.. Surprisingly my banker didn’t know about it 😦 your blog is so informative, I hope to be back for more. Thanks also for stopping by…

  12. Your post is so true. Though I was not a victim but my co-tourist was a victim at Trevi Fountain. We were in a group and repeatedly we were warned by the tour manager about the pick pocketing business in Trevi. The victim, being a unmarried young chap was little detached from the group. Two beautiful girls targeted him and they operated him so nicely that he never knew he has been pick pocketed. He told us the story about those girls and their unsuccessful attempt. At pizza shop while paying he found all his euros from the pocket has been pick-pocketed.

  13. I must get one of those credit card protectors. Don’t you wonder what could be invented if thieves put all of that creative energy into doing something good for society? Your post took me right back to the trip I was fortunate enough to take to Rome. The Trevi is a must.

  14. thanks for reading my stuff, and i’m enjoying reading about your adventures )

  15. I was with a tour group, and we were very tight. Nothing untoward happened. Our tour manager saw to that.

  16. Huh… fascinating reading. I have to say, I was surprised how safe I felt when I was in Bali. I had visions of getting robbed, and was a bit worried I didn’t have a sturdy enough bag with me. But there wasn’t a hint of trouble and the locals I encountered were all very honest. I’ll have to see what the next destination brings…

  17. Very interesting article.

  18. That happened to me at the Spanish Steps. Very crowded, woman breast feeding her baby in public and holding a newspaper– all as a distraction and so you can’t see her 6 year-old under the paper. She walked right past me and I felt a small hand in my pocket. Like you, I caught it in time, and those rats got nothing. 😀 It was pretty depressing though to see how these women use their children this way.

  19. Nice site 🙂
    Thank you for following my blog and like my Relational Art Video ‘Circle Baby to Sleep’, your future visits and likes. Hope you enjoy 🙂

  20. Very good tips, and I love your photos, I am going to Italy for the first time at end of June.

  21. I was expecting the mother to do that when you mentioned her. Its shocking. My colleague told me about a trip she went on where a gypsy mom held out a big paper in front of her, laid out flat as if she was showing her something, while her child tried digging in her bag underneath it! Thankfully my colleague’s husband was nearby and spotted the kid before he got anything out!

    • Haha, I think it’s a game over there. The police ignore them. Guess it’s all about the fun of traveling 🙂

  22. Such a detailed post ! lovely read !

  23. I love your photos of Trevi Fountain. That’s an unbelievable story about the woman using her baby as a distraction while she sneakily tried to pick your pocket. What I want to know is what did you do when you encountered her hand in your pocket? What did she do??

    • Catbird, great question. I held on to her hand, and turned around to the people around and said, “Look, she is trying to pick my pocket!” They all ignored me!!!
      She pulled her hand away and stood there calmly waiting for the next client, not at all worried 🙂

      • Oh my gosh! That’s unbelievable. I guess it really must happen so often that everyone just looks at it as a normal part of life!! I can’t believe everyone around ignored you and she wasn’t at all worried!! Argh!! I would have been so angry at that non-response, I probably would have done something regrettable!! 🙂

      • Haha! In Rome do as the Romans do! The police would have arrested you instead of them. 🙂

      • Ouch. That wouldn’t be good. 🙂

  24. I have been to this fountain! It was stunning, another example of a beautiful human masterpiece 🙂
    Next time I go, I will be sure to put a mousetrap in my pocket so it looks like my wallet! Thanks for the post and the follow.

  25. I thought I saw someone I know (an alchie) trying to fish coins out of a fountain early the other morning. I yelled, “Hey! Stop stealing kids’ dreams!” When he looked at me, I realized to my chagrin whom I thought it was.

  26. What a story, little rascals using a baby to lure people? Glad I have heard this and the way I love babies. I’m always attracted to them. Thanks you for stopping by my blog. This story is very interesting and informative! Have a great week!

  27. Trevi Fountain was one of the highlights of my trip to Rome a few years ago. I went during the day and at night. When I visited at night there were a bunch of guys hanging around with DSLR cameras and one of them noticing I was a solo traveller offered to take a picture of me with my own camera. I never give my camera to others but for some reason I did, it was fine he took a picture of me and handed it back. Then said ‘ok let me take a picture of you with my camera’. It was clear the scam he was trying to run so I just walked away, I wasn’t going to pay for his picture. I’m usually pretty aware of when people try to get too close and thankfully I have not been pickpocketed/robbed. But so many scams though you always have to be aware that someone is always trying to get your money.

  28. Thanks for the travel tips! One certainly has to be vigilant.

  29. I adore Italy, and Rome is absolutely beautiful! I think it’s difficult to explain just how amazing Rome is, as every corner of it is bursting with beautiful statues, fountains and architecture 🙂 My family and I have been twice and never even noticed any of the pickpocket signs! But then, that’s fairly typical of us 😉 Thanks for the great photos, Terry!

    • Jill, yes Rome is beautiful and so historic. I think the pick pocketing is more confined to the trains and crowded areas. Amazing architectural ruins all around and such a beautiful language. It is certainly a place to visit tint and time again!

  30. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com

    Exquisite post .l was in Rome few years ago.l heard some funny stories about pickpocketing .Thank you for visiting my site.jalal

  31. Our local news did a big story a few months ago on “card skimming” ~ scary stuff. Interesting post, Terry. I love your wife’s response. 🙂

  32. Very interesting Terry. For whatever reason I would never associate gypsies coming from India. Glad you were safe. The fountains look magnificient. I hope to visit one day (another one on the list ~ thanks!) Why don’t the gypsies send their little kids into the fountains? 🙂

  33. When I was reading your post about the baby offering the lollypop,I immediately thought it was a trick to get to your pocket.Sure enough it was what I thought.I sometimes wonder,is there a safe place to travel without getting robbed.? Thanks, your post will help travellers to be careful.Imagine they’re training babies the art of pick pocketing.It is awful!

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