This was my own fault really. I was stumbling back to my apartment alone at around 3 am after having a few too many drinks with a friend when a prostitute approached me. She was probably about 40, spoke only Spanish, and was clearly really high. She put her hand on my chest and began propositioning me. All I wanted at that point was to get away from her and go home to my comfy bed. I told her no thanks and continued on my way home.
After walking about 10 feet, I felt my pocket and noticed that my phone was missing. She had distracted me by touching my chest while reaching into my pocket. Immediately, I turned around, and calmly confronted the girl. She, of course, denied my accusation and told me to just go to the police. She’d even go with me she said. I knew they would be of no help so I declined.
I continued talking to her, trying my best to stay calm until she flagged down a taxi. At this point, I began to get frustrated. She got in the cab and tried to close the door. I Held the door open, grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the cab. I wasn’t really sure what to do next. If she made a scene and the police came over they would probably take her side. Just as I got her out of the cab, an idea popped into my head. I would buy my phone.
She lit up and completely changed her story after my offer. I told her first I needed to see the phone. She pulled up her top, flashing me my phone which was tucked into the waist band of her pants. While trying to grab it, she slapped my hand away. My drunk reflexes weren’t as quick as her high reflexes. I asked her how much she wanted for it, reminding her that it is a 4 year old Samsung that was worth nothing to her as it was locked. After a brief negotiation, we settled on 200 pesos (about $12.) I handed her the cash, she gave me my phone and I walked away pissed off at myself.
I later found out that this is a common scam. The girl was working with the police. She knew the phone had no value to anyone but me because it was locked. If she could convince me to go to the police, they would get the phone from her and charge me $50 for their trouble. They would then split the cash with the girl.
Lesson learned? Don’t walk around Tijuana drunk in the middle of the night. People will notice and will prey upon you. The funny thing is that this is the second time that the same phone was pickpocketed. You can also read about how my phone was pickpocketed in Tanzania and I got it back! I miraculously got it back both times.
By now, I feel that I’ve learned quite a bit about how pickpockets operate. To help you avoid having the same problems that I had, check out my guide: How to Avoid Pickpockets While Traveling.
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