Travelers have always had to keep their guard up for a number of reasons. One, travelers are usually easy targets since they are often not familiar with the area they’re in, they stand out and thieves assume travelers are carrying a lot of money on them. Well, this warning is not only for travelers but for everyone. RELATED: I Got Mugged in Barcelona: Here’s How to Keep Yourself Safe

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According to my local NextDoor app (a community-based social networking service for neighborhoods), a woman recently had her purse snatched at our local grocery store. This store is frequented by travelers since it’s between multiple hotels that are just a few miles from LAX and I know a lot of airlines put their crew up there as well.

If you’re not familiar with NextDoor, you should look it up as it’s a great resource to find out what’s going on in your community. Unfortunately, many of the threads tend to be reporting bad news like porch pirates stealing packages, house break-ins or people complaining about their electric bill going up. But it’s good to know what’s going on around you.

I love NextDoor because it gives people important tips about local scams and reminds them to be vigilant. One of the latest threads for our community offers a solid tip for everyone, no matter which community you live in or travel to, which is why I’m sharing it here. Note: I’m leaving the commenters’ last names out.

The thread was posted by Britney L, who said: “Witnessed a purse snatching today at Trader Joe’s, it was so horrible! Hope the woman is okay I wonder if the police caught the guy … Ladies be careful!!”

I go to the Trader Joe’s she’s talking about multiple times a week so it was definitely eye-opening because I’ve never witnessed anything shady. But after reading the comments, I realized I might be either lucky or living in the dark. Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) and thanks to everyone for sharing their stories.

Letty S.
My wallet was snatched out of my purse last Tuesday at the same Trader Joes and within 15 minutes they took a cash advance from my credit card for $5400….I learned a tough lesson-don’t keep your purse in the cart and don’t look away even for a second…UGH. And when I filed my police report they told me they like taking wallets from there b/c the aisles are so narrow, making it easier to distract and take your stuff, especially when crowded.

Francoise R.
My daughter worked at that Trader Joe’s 20 years ago and this was going on then too. NEVER leave a purse in the cart, it’s just not worth taking the chance. Some ladies get mad when advised not to do so, so I’ve stopped trying to help. Hope the victim is OK as this is traumatic for sure. Also hope she changes the locks at home if she had her keys in her purse, as the thieves have everything they need to get into her home.

Darlene M.
I am constantly telling women to stop leaving their purses in their shopping cart. Like literally tapping them: “you need to hold your purse. Anyone could snatch it.” Use a Fanny pack or keep your CC and keys in your pocket with no purse. And people do it all the time when they’re loading their car.

Robin K
Unfortunately do to the times I don’t even carry a purse anymore. Keep my small wallet tucked away at all times.

Heather M.
That’s why I NEVER bring in a purse or wallet there. I keep my keys in my hand held like brass knuckles 😂, pepper spray in pocket…Ive started to do this at most stores now. A purse just seems like a nuisance at this point. Better to keep less on you and in your car.

The point of this is not to dissuade anyone from going to Trader Joe’s (it’s one of my favorite grocery stores) but it’s a reminder to keep your belongings safe. If it could happen in this small store in a wealthy town, it can happen anywhere.

So no matter where you are shopping, here are some tips to keep you and your belongings safe:

1. Never leave your purse or wallet in your shopping cart.
2. If you must carry a purse, tuck it under your arm or better yet, use a crossbody bag.
3. If possible, don’t carry a purse at all, especially not an expensive designer bag. Instead just bring a credit card or two.
4. Don’t wear flashy jewelry (even if it’s fake).
5. Don’t leave your purse or any other belongings in the car. Thieves (especially in the San Francisco Bay Area) can smash and grab your stuff in 10 seconds (see the pictures here).
6. Don’t put your stuff in the trunk while you’re in the parking lot, unless you’re driving away immediately afterwards. If you must, do it where no one else can see you do it, because thieves can easily pop a trunk. 
7. Park as close to the store as you can.
8. Don’t flash a lot of cash when checking out. I don’t even carry cash anymore except a $20 bill just in case.
9. Photograph the fronts and backs of all your credit cards in your wallet so if they do get swiped, you can quickly find the phone numbers to call. Better yet, put your bank’s number in your phone.
10. Lock your debit cards. When I go to withdraw money from the bank, which I rarely do, I just login to my bank’s app and unlock the card. After I pull money, I relock it.
11. Set notifications for all of your credit cards so whenever you buy something, you get a text message. That way, you can quickly stop the bleeding if someone starts spending on your card.

Fortunately, this story has a somewhat happy ending as the victim didn’t get hurt. Unfortunately, they haven’t caught the bad guy yet and even if they do, with our lax California laws, they will probably be back out on the street tomorrow.

About the incident, the victim posted this on NextDoor: “I was the woman who got her purse stolen. I just would like to let you know that I am fine. Just in shock that it happened. It was super surreal. I am 34 weeks pregnant, had a drs appt today and all is fine :) thank you for all the nice comments. When I talked to the store manager today she said when she spoke to the police, they had not caught him yet but were following all traffic cameras and we getting hopefully close to catching him.” ~ Meagan R.

Again, I’m not picking on Trader Joe’s; I love it and go all the time and will continue to do so. My point is that if this type of robbery can happen there, and it seems to happen a lot more often than I thought, then it can happen anywhere.

Speaking of anywhere … I was once on a European river cruise press trip and on one of our tours, one of the seasoned travel writer’s had her wallet stolen from her purse. She had everything in it, including her passport so that mistake immediately ruined her trip. Guess where we were? Walking through a beautiful cathedral on Palm Sunday in Germany. Crazy, right?

Warning: ‘Distraction Thefts’ on the Rise and Senior Citizens are Most Vulnerable 
Travel Safety in Barcelona: Tips From Someone Who Got Mugged 
Rick Steves Got Pickpocketed In Paris – Here’s How To Prevent It From Happening To You
In-Flight Theft is Real – Here’s How To Prevent It and Protect Your Stuff

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12 Comments On "WARNING: If This Can Happen at Trader Joe's, it Can Happen Anywhere - Here's How to Protect Yourself"
  1. Sheri|

    They target Trader Joes because they don’t have cameras. They will never catch the guy. I use to live in LA and when I went to my local TJ’s and saw ladies with their purse in their cart, I would kindly tell them to hold it as people steal wallets out of it. Many were thankful I told them, a couple looked at me like I was the one that was going to do it. I ended up moving out of CA 4 months ago due to this and many other horrible things that are happening in CA without consequence.

  2. Dru|

    I also had my wallet stolen at Trader Joe’s and the police said another woman had her purse stolen at the same time. According to the police, the thieves immediately call their partners at a big box store and give the credit card numbers. Within moments, hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of
    (usually electronics because they’re easy to return for cash) merchandise is bought.
    I now securely zipper the part of my purse holding my credit cards and use the child safety strap to secure my purse to the cart. If someone tried to steal my wallet or purse now, s/he’d have to really struggle, and I would see that immediately and yell for help.

  3. Dee Quill|

    Thank you for this public service announcement. Even though it is basically common sense, it is good to remind folks of the danger.
    I am a little confused though, by the story from the woman who said her credit card was stolen and a large cash advance was made with it. Don’t all credit cards have a pin associated with them, making it very difficult for someone to do this? Unless her pin was something silly like 1234, or she actually had it written on the card, this just seems exceedingly difficult to have happen.

  4. Marlo Faulkner|

    I put my bag in the cart. I zip it closed and slip the snap straps through my bag handles. No one can grab it and it would be to difficult to unzip.

  5. RozMc|

    I have been wearing my SCOTTeVEST travel vest for my valuables since Covid. You recommended the SCOTTeVest for travel and I have used it for over 10 years – for travel and now as a wearable purse. My wallet and all my valuables are in inner pockets and there is room for everything. It’s so convenient that I don’t know that I will go back to a purse – other than for going out.

  6. Ryan|

    Nextdoor is toxic. An outlet for neighborhood Karens, and a place for miserable people to be together. Been much happier since leaving anything to do with Nextdoor.

  7. billyb|


  8. billyb|


  9. Ann|

    I read next door as well but didn’t see the TJs incident. Was it the Rosescrans or MB Blvd location, or Westchester? My bonus child works at the one in Culver City and would tell me if anything happens there.
    I also ? the large withdrawal.

  10. Scott Mace|

    Why is it necessary to lock debit cards? The crooks can’t crack the PINs that easily, can they?

  11. Carrie|

    Debit cards can be used as a credit card which doesn’t require a pin.

  12. kitty|

    Last Sunday, April 23 rd, I made a police report from the Trader Joe’s in San Juan Capistrano Ca., even though I didn’t loose anything, thankfully. My coin purse was removed from my bag as I turned sideways to get an item, noticing the couple near me were there just a second ago,I found them quickly seeing them walking fast to the exit without any purchases. I was getting closer as I followed them out the door and a small foot chase, the guy dropped the small purse as they raced to get in their vehicle that was parked near the street. I was yelling at them all the way which drew a lot of attention. One person was able to snap a cell phone picture of their license plate and part of the dark grey older model Honda suv. I wasn’t missing anything , cards were all there in the small purse. I am usually more careful but that day there was a small enough error and the rats were nearby in that second of opportunity. Wearing the bag strapped to me since then, never in the cart again.

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