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5 ways to protect yourself from theft on public transport

Many thefts are avoidable just by taking a few simple precautions.

Here are five ways to keep yourself and your stuff safe when using public transportation.

1. Be aware

Crowded trains and stations provide easy hunting grounds for thieves because your attention is often divided between many things: navigating your way, paying your fare, checking your phone.

These days, nearly everyone is staring at a screen while waiting for their trains – a clear signal that you aren't paying any attention to whatís going on around you. Make it a habit to people-watch instead of checking your email. The more you look like you're paying attention, the less attractive you'll look to thieves.

2. Question the unusual

Watch out for crowds or commotion. As soon as some thing or event draws your interest – be it an argument, person acting strangely or a messy spill – turn on your high alert. Thieves often work in teams; one or more will distract you, while the other slips into your pocket or bag while you're not paying attention. A simple rule is: if it seems unusual, make it a reflex to keep a close eye on your belongings. If your intuition is telling you that something is unusual, especially if more than one person is involved, honour that feeling and pay extra attention.

3. Don't show off

Besides the fact that playing around on your phone or tablet will make you less aware of your surroundings, they also make you more attractive to thieves who see you holding something they want. The simplest solution is not to take your devices out when in the station or waiting for the metro or train. Wait until you're in your seat, you've taken in your surroundings and your bags are safely stored.

4. Stay in contact with your belongings

Rather than setting your bag down beside you, or above or underneath your seat, keep it on your lap, hold it in your hand, or even loop it around a foot. Just make sure it's touching you. This will make you more likely to be aware if someone else is touching it.

5. Use small deterrents

Thieves are usually looking for the lowest-risk target, so just taking small steps to secure your belongs is likely to dissuade them. Even a safety pin or a twist-tie linking two zippers increases the degree of difficulty a thief will have to put up with to take your things, making them more likely to look elsewhere.

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