Deception expert's 'bizarre' tip to protect Aussies against rising Bali crime

Harry Milas reveals how Aussies can protect themselves and their belongings in the pickpocket hotspot.

The small but significant rise of pickpockets in a popular tourist hotspot in Bali has prompted a deception expert to inform Aussies on how best to safeguard themselves while travelling through high risks area.

Harry Milas — professional magician and sleight of hand specialist — spoke to Yahoo News Australia and flagged easy to follow tips which people can use to best protect themselves and their belongings. The instructions come after authorities warned tourists about an increased number of thieves in the beachside resort of Legian.

"What we perceive as these clever and stealthy attempts, it's really the first attempt of a robbery," Milas said, urging people to rethink what they perceive pickpocketing as.

Left, Harry shared how Aussies can protect themselves against pickpockets. Right, a group of you tourists interact with Bali locals.
Sleight of hand specialist Harry Milas has flagged easy ways Aussies can keep themselves safe as pickpocket incidents increase in Bali. Source: Instagram and SBS

What is happening in Legian

Areas in Bali are known for pickpocketing but the issue was recently brought to the forefront after a video began to circulate on the internet showing an altercation between a suspected thief and tourist after an alleged failed attempt to steal a phone.

It has been reported the tense confrontation occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning along Jalan Legian — the main strip which runs between Kuta and Seminyak.

Left, Bali policemen stand on the road. Right, tourists and locals confront each other in the viral video.
There has been an increase in security in Bali after a video (right) showing an altercation between locals and a suspected thief went viral. Source: Coconuts and Instagram

It is believed the victim is yet to make a formal complaint and the accused says he was merely picking up the man's phone up after it had fallen out of his pocket. Bali authorities are on high alert with police carrying out an investigation after the incident.

Head of Legian Village, Ni Putu Eka Martini, also said there would be an increase in security to minimise the crime.

Milas's top tip for victims of pickpocketing

Despite admitting his suggestion may seem "bizarre", the most important tip Milas believes Aussies should follow if they find themselves being a victim of pickpocketing is — don't do anything.

"If you think someone is pickpocketing you, especially in Southeast Asia, I would very strongly recommend just letting them take it," he said. "The odds of that thief going, 'You've caught me' and letting you call the police [if you retaliate], it's not going to happen."

He said this course of action should be followed as it prioritises safety. However, there there are other preventative steps to lessen the chance of being a victim of pickpocketing in the first place.

Take preventative steps

"The number one thing that you can do to avoid being pickpocketed is to not walk around with all of your belongings," Milas said, admitting he is a "big believer" in the hotel safe.

If — like many Bali tourists — an Aussie plans to enjoy a budget-friendly holiday to the country and their accommodation doesn't include a safe, a "slash proof" stealth wallet is a great option, Milas said. These are a flat version of a bum bag which individuals can wrap around their torso under clothes.

Tourists often help thieves locate belongings on their body

Milas shared many tourists actually unconsciously help thieves in their attempts to steal belongings.

"In Bali there's often places that have signs warning pickpockets are 'common in this area'. And if you see that sign, anywhere in the world, the government or the police have not put that sign up," he claims.

These signs can be helpful tools for thieves as they prompt tourists to check they still have possession of their belongings, and in doing so pinpoint exactly where on their body thieves should target.

"That sign exists so that people will go, 'Where's my phone?' and tap on their body where it is ... The person watching now knows exactly what those items are, it's called clocking."

Have you experienced problems in Bali? Contact News Reporter Sophie Coghill at

Other factors tourists should be mindful of, Milas says

  • Keep an eye on "natural points of focus" which distract tourists away from pickpockets.

  • It is "very, very rare for pickpockets to work alone" — be mindful it's likely a group of thieves may be working together to steal your belongings.

  • Put RFID (radio frequency identification) onto valuable items so you can track any stolen items. Authorities are forced to act as there is proof of "probable cause".

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