Bolivia Travel Tips: Theft awareness - be aware of new robbery technique

by M.P.

This has happened to me 3 times in La Paz, additionally I WATCHED it happen one time in La Paz to another traveler (I tried to prevent it) and now one time it has happened to me here in Cuzco.

It is a variation of the "Spilled something/distraction" robbery technique but I think it is slightly different enough to warrant mention.

The thieves operate in pairs of 2 or 3. One throws dirt or coffee grounds or whatever up in the air and onto the victim's hair. While the victim is spinning around looking up in the air to figure out where the stuff came from the other thief picks the victim's pocket. If the victim looks around suspiciously at the thief then the thief will usually point up and tell the victim that some thing came from a window -- And THAT is how you know who the thief is -- Only the thief will bother to tell you to look up again and claim it fell from a window, or better yet the sky. All other innocent locals will know what is going on but they will not tell you to look up again.

The tip is:
1) If you feel something fall in your hair do NOT look up -- look down at your pockets and/or for your valuables. Quickly feel for them -- you may also feel others hands at the same time.
2) Who ever tells you that stuff "fell from the sky" is probably the thief.

But beware of confronting the thief because one of the pair may also be the 'protection' for the group and be packing a knife for confrontational situations.

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Jul 21, 2017
Robbed in La Paz
by: Anonymous

I had a similar experience, but it was the standard bird-poop trick. I was standing along El Prado waiting for a bus on a busy afternoon. A young man dressed in a suit with a briefcase came and stood beside me. He told me I had something on my shoulder that looked like bird poop. He started to grab tissues out of his pockets to wipe it off. There was a lot of it (mustard). I became quite disoriented as he kept turning me around to get it off. The next thing I know, I'm in a dark alley. Another man comes and the young guy quickly leaves. He was trying to get my coat off, saying how much poop was on it. They were apparently trying to get to my camera bag which I had over my shoulder under my coat. While it was going on, I remember feeling safe because I could see a security guard standing in a doorway nearby. Well, they made off with my Canon bag. Luckily, I had taken my nice camera out of it that morning so I could collect rocks on my hike that day in the Altiplano. So, all they got was a bag of rocks, an old Chapstick, and a few coins!

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