One thing that I carry around with me when I go to the city or travel overseas is a decoy wallet.
A decoy wallet is a wallet whose purpose is to fool a would-be mugger or pickpocket from stealing your real wallet.
The theory is, if you’re ever threatened to give up your wallet, you pull out the decoy and let them take that instead of your real stash of money, IDs, and credit cards (which are concealed somewhere else on your person).
My decoy wallet
Here’s a pic of my decoy wallet:
From initial investigation, it appears to be an actual wallet: It’s worn out, has credit cards in it, pictures of the wife and kids, a few rewards cards, and some cash (a $10 bill, a $5 bill, and five $1s).
While the $20 bucks is real and will work for them, that’s about it.
The credit cards though are inactive, the pictures of the wife and kids are not mine (I printed out a nice picture of some lady and kids on photopaper), and the rest is just a filling of old receipts, rewards cards, and other worthless items.
If I get pick-pocketed:
Well, then the worse thing that happens is my pride is a bit hurt and I come away with a lesson to be better aware of my surroundings.
If I am mugged:
Here is my plan:
- If I have the option to throw the wallet and beat feet to a public area, then I’ll do it, otherwise…
- If I have nowhere to go and they take the wallet and run, then that works as well.
- If they force me to stay while rummaging through it, then I will prepare myself for a possible escalation of force. If the ruse is enough to fool them and they leave me alone, it’s a good day.
- If they escalate after that point, hopefully the time it takes for them to figure out they want to tango, I’ve prepared myself enough to meet their escalation with my own (preparing my carry weapon).
This is my own continuum of force. You are welcome to create one that you feel comfortable with.
For me, the decoy wallet really serves two purposes: as a ruse for them to hopefully leave me alone, or as a momentary distraction that allows me a bit of time to prepare for an unavoidable physical confrontation.
As a side note, I highly recommend you read my article on crisis visualization. It greatly helps to visualize exactly how you would respond to this sort of incident (with all the variables you can think of) and play them over and over in your mind until they’re ingrained as natural responses. As a result this will greatly shorten the OODA loop to give you the best chance possible.
Remember, in situations where seconds count you don’t want to be a statistic because you hesitated.
How to make a decoy wallet
Making a decoy wallet is a pretty simple process. Here are some pointers that you’ll want to consider.
- If you have an old/beat-up wallet, use that. The more you can make it look like it’s your real wallet the better
- Add to it inactive or expired credit cards, fake family pics (of kids, spouse etc), a decent but small amount of cash, store rewards cards you don’t use, some old store receipts you don’t need etc. Anything to add to the ruse and make the wallet look “full”.
- Keep your real set of cards, IDs, and cash in a concealed place on your body (not in your pockets)
- When you need to make a purchase, use the decoy wallet. If you need more than what’s in the decoy, go to the restroom and put what cash/card you need from your concealed place and reverse the process when done.
You don’t want to go digging down into your crotch for your “concealed cash” at the register — not only will the register person think you’re a weirdo but any would-be mugger watching you will now know where you hide the real stuff…and may just go looking.
- When stocking your decoy wallet, keep in mind that some expired/inactive cards will use the same credit-card number as your current one. Confirm that’s not the case since the criminal could potentially still use the card by trying out various expiration dates.
- I wouldn’t recommend putting any notes in your wallet like “Sorry Dude, You’ve Been Punked” or “Nice Try Loser” or filling it with monopoly money. If the perp makes you stay there while checking out what’s inside it could just make things worse for you…
A word to the ladies
For women that don’t carry wallets per se, the principles still apply: Keep your important collection of cash, cards, and IDs somewhere concealed on you. (I know some ladies who can conceal quite a bit in their bras).
In your purse you’ll put a decoy wallet in there and either hand that over to them or the whole purse (you just can’t sweat about losing your MAC makeup).
It really comes down to awareness
Ultimately, mugging is a crime of surprise. Don’t forget the importance of keeping your head on a swivel and always being aware of your surroundings.
If you haven’t yet, check out my article on The Color Code of Awareness: Always stay in Yellow.