Of all the emails and blogs I receive about travel places and tips, a recently received one really jumped out at me.  Fodor’s Travel published an article about what to do if you’ve been pickpocketed abroad.

Sadly, I’m an expert at this since it’s happened to me twice. Here’s the one which was a truly miraculous experience.

A pickpocketing miracle

Back in the mid-1990s, I took my then teenaged daughter to France.  She was studying French in high school, as I had, and so I wanted to give her real-life experience traveling in one of my favorite places.  Among the items I packed was a stash of American Express travelers checks, because that’s what you did then.

A few days into our time in Paris–we were at Paris Disneyland to be exact–she started complaining of feeling very dizzy and her ears hurt. As a little child, she had had constant ear infections, and even though they always cleared up, this chronic condition left her with sensitive eardrums.  When she flew, she usually ended up with stuffed-up ears. 

I found a pharmacy and was able to get her some anti-vertigo medication, and it helped a little. Fortunately, the other place on our itinerary was Nice, so we were taking the train there.  It was the weekend by then, and I was running low on francs (this was long before euros!).  On Saturday, I went to an Amex office to cash $400 US worth of travelers’ checks because I knew the banks would be closed the next day on Sunday and I didn’t want to deplete my remaining cash.

The next day was  Sunday and my daughter felt particularly dizzy. She just wanted to stay in and I really wanted to go to the Matisse Museum.  She was 15 or 16 and old enough to stay in our room at the hotel for a couple of hours, so I left for the museum.  At the bus stop, I tightly clutched my shoulder bag while I studied the map to figure out which bus.  When it arrived, I opened the purse to get my wallet.  But it was gone!

What to do when you find out you have been pickpocketed abroad

After panicking (which Fodor’s says not to do!),  I got off the bus and found a police station to report the theft (which Fodor’s does recommend).  I wasn’t the only one there making a police report. There was another couple there looking as distraught as I did.  Apparently pickpocketing in Nice was a big problem.  I filled out the paperwork and returned to the hotel. My daughter was feeling better, but I certainly was not.

The next day, on Monday, I decided to go to the Amex office to see if they could help.  I know they would replace lost or stolen travelers’ checks.  But what would they do about checks that had been cashed?  It was a long shot, but it didn’t hurt to ask for help.  After explaining the situation, Miracle # 1 happened.  Amex took pity on me and returned me $400 worth of francs!  I was jubilant and so grateful.  I told them I would never forget their kindness, and I haven’t.

The miracle

Six months later, back at home, I returned from work one day to find a large manila envelope addressed to me from the US Department of State.  I couldn’t imagine what they were sending me, and this was Miracle #2.  It was my wallet!  Completely untouched–my driver’s license and credit cards were all intact (and even though I’d canceled them, they had never been used.)  All that was missing was the cash.  

I’m guessing the thief got the cash they wanted and tossed the wallet on the street or in a trash can.  Somehow it made its way to the police.  Because I had reported the theft and the police had my contact information, they were able to get it back to me, by way of our diplomats.

Moral of this story?  Pickpockets are clever, but a cross-body purse or a hidden wallet are better deterrents than a shoulder bag or backpack.  Don’t carry much cash…and don’t carry it all in one place (Fodor’s agrees with that one too.)

Miracles do happen in very unexpected ways!