Thursday, June 13, 2024

Spain expat warns ‘be careful’ of Barcelona tourist scam ‘under your nose’

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Barcelona is one of Spain‘s most bustling tourist destinations, with over 12 million visitors to the Catalan capital each year. However, the high level of visitors means that opportunists lurk within the crowds, with pickpocketing one of the most rife tourist scams in the city. Last year, data compiled by found that Spain was one of the worst destinations for tourist scams, along with France.

The research found that these scams typically occur in areas of high tourist foot traffic – such as popular landmarks and attractions.

Katie, an American expat who lives in Spain, explained that stolen phones is one of the biggest “scams” that Barcelona is “known for”. She listed it among her top “five popular tourist scams you need to be aware of if you are coming to Spain.”

“You probably already know this but Barcelona is known for stealing phones,” she said in a video posted to her Instagram page. “If you have your phone in your back pocket or anywhere visible people will snatch it.”

She added: “I did have one of my friends get her phone stolen out of her hand so that can happen too. Be careful.”

According to 2023 data, reported by local news provider Catalan News, Barcelona experienced an 8.6 percent increase in crime in 2023 compared to 2022. This included a 6.5 percent increase in thefts, primarily occurring in public spaces and on public transportation.

Though these petty crimes most likely won’t leave you injured or in danger, they might leave you out of pocket. Previous visitors to Spain shared their experiences of having their phones pickpocketed in the city in the comments section of Katie’s Instagram video.

One tourist said: “Our phone was stolen right off our table under our noses at a restaurant in Barcelona. The restaurant was empty except for us and this one guy who wandered in off the street and sat near us. The staff didn’t give him a menu or approach him like they did with us when we arrived.

“We never saw him near our table and I wonder if maybe our waiter stole the phone and gave it to the guy? Either way, it was pure artistry. Nobody in our party of five saw anything and none of us would have believed it could happen.” [SIC]

A second tourist shared a similar story which took place on Las Ramblas – one of the most rife destinations for pickpockets in Barcelona. They explained: “We were sitting at the bar and my husband’s phone was stolen literally in front of us. Convinced it was the waiter.” [SIC]

How to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona

The best way to avoid being pickpocketed in Barcelona is to have your wits about you and make sure you don’t leave your phone within easy reach of anyone. Katie said: “A lot of people will get those lanyard things that will attach your phone to your wrist because I’m not playing when it comes to my phone.”

The kind of lanyards Katie mentions can be purchased on Amazon for as little as £9.99 and can add an extra level of security when using your phone out and about.

She also suggests storing your phone in a bum bag or small bag worn on the front of your body. Placing your phone in a zipped-up interior pocket of your bag can also help.

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