Why Americans are a theft bull's-eye

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 Man getting his pocket picked

Man getting his pocket picked (Photographer's Choice via Getty Photo)

All this isn't to diminish the joys of travel. The point is this: Travel with humility and an open mind. Accept friendliness, but if an internal alarm rings, listen to it. Be confident, be aware and make an effort to blend in with locals.

"I don't worry about anything when I'm traveling," Siciliano said. "I am aware, I am alert and I know my options. I know what I'm getting myself into, and I'm confident in myself and my abilities."

I'm right there with him, and that is one reason I'd gladly get on a plane for Barcelona tomorrow.

Defensive tips

Keep essentials — credit cards, ID and cash — in a front, not back, pocket.

Wear purses over the shoulder beneath a coat.

Don't draw needless attention to yourself. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry, and minimize the clothes that scream "I'm not from here." That can include baseball caps, clothing bearing English words and "travel clothes" such as zip-off pants and vests with 30 pockets that you don't use. In some countries it can even include khakis.

Trust your intuition. If someone seems to be paying you unwanted attention, it's probably not for a reason you want. Be polite and move on.

Be aware. Take note of what's ahead and, especially, what's behind. If you feel you're in danger, cross the street or go into a coffee shop.

Be confident. Strong, confident body language speaks volumes. Don't be afraid to look a stranger in the eye, but don't feel the need to let the eye contact linger. Just make it long enough to acknowledge the other person and move on.

Rendeiro suggests carrying a "dummy wallet" with a small amount of cash in places where robbery and pickpockets are a serious problem.

jbnoel@tribune.com

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