'Tis the season for pickpockets: protect yourself

A friend of mine recently had his pocket picked in Brussels, which reminded me that the economic downturn and Christmas shopping are a perfect storm setting the stage for a sharp increase in pocket picking. How vulnerable are you to a polished thief? What can you do to minimize your risk?

First, take a few moments to watch this video about how one common pickpocket scheme, the three-way lift, is executed by a polished team of crooks.

Scary, isn't it? How many times during the holiday season do you brush up against someone in line, on the street, in the elevator, or at a restaurant? Every contact, no matter how brief, is an opportunity. And since pickpockets thrive on distraction, the frantic nature of the season provides plenty of opportunity.

Even if you think your wallet is secure in your pocket or a closely-held purse, a thief with a scalpel-sharp knife can slash his way to it without you noticing until it's too late. Other items you carry are also appealing to a thief, such as your cell phone, camera, GPS unit, and check book. So how can you protect yourself from pickpockets?

Take a three-pronged approach.