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Pickpockets in Mallorca

The sensation of release and freedom that a holiday brings is liberating! It takes many months to arrive yet sadly, petty thieves can steal that carefree feeling in a split second. ‘My first thought was what an idiot I’d been! … To be taken by such a simple tactic!’ Sadly, these are all too common sentiments for some visitors to Palma de Mallorca. Pickpockets are good at what they do. To become a victim only takes a moment.

Mallorca is a Safe Destination

For tourists and business people alike, Spain and Mallorca are considered safe destinations. Most people who come to Mallorca don’t get robbed, yet gangs and individuals do operate here around all the tourist hot spots and Palma Airport. They spot you a mile off as you arrive at Palma Airport or at one of the many tourist attractions on the islands. How can you prevent pickpocketing, what do you need to know? Please read on for essential advice.

High-Risk Targets for Pickpockets

  • Foreigners seem to be the targets of choice
  • Those who look and act like obvious tourists (because they probably are)
  • Middle-aged and older citizens
  • Appearing wealthy even if you’re not, i.e. jewellery, nice watch, accessories, etc

Situations to be alert to

Pickpockets have a number of techniques that will work nine times out of ten. Here are a few examples of how they like to work. If you take note of these and don’t make it easy for them, they will move on to someone else.

  • Pickpockets and thieves love to operate in crowds and busy areas, like airports, hotel lobbies, public transport centers, and other tourists hotspots like markets.
  • Pickpockets prosper in confined spaces such as public transport systems like buses or trains. In Spain and Mallorca, this especially includes the entering and exiting of buses. Often they look like tourists themselves, so they might not look suspicious to you.
  • Watch out for flower sellers who could be pickpockets. They are notorious in the maze of tiny streets around Palma Cathedral, Mallorca Museum, and the Arab Baths. One tactic is pinning a flower on your clothes, which is used as a distraction technique. They will steal when pinning it on you, or when you hand it back or get your purse out to offer a contribution.

Distraction is the key to pickpocketing, a moment of forgetfulness in a busy place and it will have happened. You often don’t notice anything until later, when the thief has long gone. Professional pickpockets create devious scenarios to gain your confidence or divert your attention:

  • Individuals asking for help, dropping coins or keys near a victim are just types of distractions to allow themselves or an accomplice to steal the victim’s purse.
  • Some examples of distraction are; a man innocently requesting help from a senior lady about where to find nappies in the supermarket for his baby etc. Or a thief asking for directions while holding maps (except they won’t seem like thieves.)
  • A classic distraction technique is when a thief deliberately squirts or spills something on a victim without them realizing and then like a very helpful person points it out and offers to clean it up. While cleaning them up they clean them out of money also. This method has been very successful.

Pickpockets often work in twos or groups using distraction methods. Wallets or purses can be passed to safety between them very quickly.

Pickpocket tactics to watch out for

  • Be wary of flat or slashed tires, thieves may have let your tire down deliberately. Watch out for men who will stop to help and while one is changing your wheel or helping the other is stealing a bag from the front seat.
  • Credit Card Skimming has been an issue. Be vary of foreign attachments to ATM/cash machines which will read your card as it is entered. Corrupt waiters at a restaurant may also read the card into their own recorder for later use. Try to pay with your card by swiping it yourself. Many restaurants will bring a credit card reader to you nowadays.
  • If possible, carry cash and credit cards under your trousers hanging from a thin pouch.
  • Travel with an expired bank/credit card in your wallet in the event of being mugged, keep your active card separate from your wallet.
  • Remove important documents or cards from your wallet in case it is stolen.
  • Never carry your purse/wallet in your back pocket or inside your jacket pocket. Carry it in your tightest pocket.
  • Hold your purse/wallet securely in crowds.
  • Don’t flash cash and dress down for certain occasions.
  • Never put your handbag on the floor or hang it from the back of a chair.
  • Protect your personal space. Be alert to anyone who gets unreasonably close.
  • Make photocopies of important travel documents including your passport and have them copied on an email or stored on an iCloud.
  • Have credit card cancellation numbers ready in case you have to call them.
  • Be careful when getting your car hire sorted out at the desk. There are often lots of distractions when doing this and you can easily misplace your wallet.

Where to Turn for Assistance

In tourist locations, English speakers are normally on duty. The Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) have responsibility for general policing in rural areas in addition to traffic policing, protection of coasts, frontiers, ports, and airports. The National Police Corps (Cuerpo Nacional de Policía) is responsible for general policing in urban areas.

For more information on the topic, please also see our post on airport scams.


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