Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

For Better Security from Theft, Carry a Fake Wallet

I travel a lot, sometimes on airliners, sometimes on subways, and on almost every other form of transportation imaginable, even by walking. Security is always an issue, especially when traveling in certain areas. Many American cities and foreign countries have lots of pickpockets and hold-up men on the streets, especially in areas frequented by tourists. I worry more about pickpockets and hold-ups than I do about online hackers and identity thieves.

What to do to protect yourself against pickpockets, hold-ups, hotel room burglars, and other criminals? You can purchase all sorts of “protection” devices ranging from wallets with chains and locks, briefcases with handcuffs or sirens, tear gas, or other such devices. My guess is that use of any of these devices is only going to enrage the thief and encourage him to take even more drastic steps. An angry thief may attack you with his fists, a knife, or possibly with a gun. I think there is a better, and probably smarter, way of protecting your valuables: give the thief what he thinks he wants.

For instance, when traveling, I always carry two wallets. Yes, two. In my front pocket I carry an ultra-thin front pocket wallet. You can find these in all sorts of stores, at Amazon at and probably from many other places as well. Front pocket wallets are available in a wide variety of styles and shapes, pick out something that fits your tastes.

The secret is to keep the front pocket wallet as thin as possible so that it doesn’t show as a bulge in the pants and will not be noticed by the would-be thief. Place your driver’s license, credit cards and folding bills in this super-slim wallet. However, by itself, the ultra-thin front pocket wallet is only half of the solution.

Next, carry a standard-sized wallet in your back pocket or purse or wherever you might carry a wallet. I call it my “fake wallet.” Make it obvious. Even stuff it with pictures (not of YOUR family, however) and whatever else people typically put in a wallet. I even added a couple of old keys in the coin purse, keys that I used years ago for locks that are no longer being used. I also add in a twenty-dollar bill and perhaps a few singles. When a bank sends me a new credit card, making the old card obsolete and no longer able to charge anything, I put the old credit card into my fake wallet and the new credit card into my front pocket wallet.

When traveling, I carry the fake wallet in my back pocket. Ladies probably will prefer to carry it in a purse. If a stick-up thief stops me and demands cash, I plan to remove the fake wallet from my back pocket and hand it to him. He probably won’t stop to examine it, other than to perhaps see there is some cash and credit cards in it. He probably will run away and disappear as quickly as possible. Meantime, most of my cash, my driver’s license, and all of my current credit cards will remain safe and secure in my front pocket.

Is this 100% foolproof? Certainly not. Nothing is ever perfect protection from a thief. However, I believe it will fool a high percentage of the thieves and pickpockets and I am willing to play the percentages. I am happy with REDUCING the chances of theft even though I know I can never eliminate all risks entirely.

One other thought: be careful about taking the secret wallet out of your front pocket when in stores, restaurants, or anywhere else where strangers may be watching. The fact that you are carrying a secret extra wallet should remain just that: a secret.

Categories: Offline Privacy & Security

2 replies

  1. We had just gotten on the subway in Budapest heading for the Park of Heroes. My wife was by the door, I was holding my huge Canon A1 in my left hand and hanging on the strap with my right. At the next stop a very pretty little girl got on and couldn’t reach the strap so she grabbed my wrist. Other folks sort of gathered around. When we exited the car I reached in my rear pocket for my cap and it wasn’t there. I patted my front pocket…no billfold! And it was a rough-ish cloth billfold and I had a tight pair of jeans on. I won’t go into the details of what we did about it, but we never got any hits from the credit card, just lost a few bucks and my driver’s license.


  2. A few years ago, in a Denver suburb, a group of seniors walked around a small lake in the mornings. Purse snatchers began hanging around the lake as well, and a number of women were victimized. A friend of mine bought several old purses at Goodwill and filled them with dog poop. She handed them out to her friends. Sure enough, over a period of a few days the bags were snatched, and the thieves moved on.

    Don’t mess with old ladies.


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