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20 / 20

July 3, 2009

Generally I like to think that I’m a very careful person. I look both ways before crossing the street; I’ve never told my Internet passwords to a single soul; and I generally try to steer clear of strangers in Paris (most of the time).

So when I tell you all that today my wallet was stolen, I hope you will believe that this doesn’t usually happen to someone like me. I had left my purse sitting behind the counter (which barely qualifies as a counter. It’s really more like a desk) in the bookshop, only to discover that someone had gone through, unbuttoned and zipped until he found my wallet.

Luckily, there wasn’t much in that wallet worth stealing, so I like to think that the damage will not be too terrible. But in the meanwhile, here are a few tips to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you in Paris:

1. If you carry a purse, make sure it’s one that zips, not just ties or buttons. Hands can fit through those little openings easier than you’d think. If you carry things in a wallet in your pocket, go for a front pocket rather than the back. This way you’re more likely to feel someone groping around and if they are, you can see them.

2. It’s always best not to appear conspicuously touristy because tourists are often targeted for pickpocketing. This means leaving your fanny pack at home and opting for some more stylish shoes than those white sneakers (not that you should think this is a bad thing). Think as Parisians dress, and try to copycat. Other tip-offs sometimes include loud English-speaking. I’m not saying you should become mute for most of your trip, but try not to be the stereotypical noisy American. This is also a courtesy to the people around you.

3. Keep a list of the documents and cards you keep in your wallet separately. This will insure that you don’t forget about a certain credit card and suddenly wind up with a $26,000 bill. Also keep photocopies of everything.  keep your passport with you, but rather bring a photocopy. This will be enough should the French police check you randomly, and if you lose the photocopy it won’t be nearly the problem that a lost passport would be.

But, as I am rapidly learning, if you do lose your wallet, it’s not the end of the world. Just remember what you learned because, after all, hindsight is always 20/20.

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