ONE READER, who requests anonymity, outlines an entire repertoire of rip-offs

Spanish Steps

Most crime against tourists in Madrid doesn't include violence, but it is so blatant it'll take your breath away. If you see anyone in summer wearing a poncho or carrying a large garment over their arm, beware - it's almost sure to hide a hand for slipping into someone else's pocket.

On a bus

Once I was on a crowded bus outside the Prado. Five people were jostling me, and I only realised what was happening when I saw a hand going for my inside jacket pocket. The five were middle-aged and wore suits.

On the Metro

The classic: they nick your bag as the door closes, and jump off.

In a restaurant

Many places have a lot of tables in a fairly small space. Some women put their handbags over the top of the back of their chair. The thief sits down at a table near a hanging bag and goes through it.

Sitting on a bench alone

Two variations here: you are reading or relaxing. Two women walk up to you: one has a baby. She thrusts the baby into your arms as they go for your bag. The other trick: someone approaches you and starts talking. They get your attention while someone behind you goes for the bag.

Where to avoid

Areas such as the Plaza de Sol, the Plaza Mayor and, of course, the Rastro, the flea market area.

One thief who I saw apprehended by a member of the public in Sol and frog-marched to a policeman, was let go when the policeman wasn't interested.

One exception was a thief who must have been new to the city. He stole a bag on Calle Toledo and ran towards the little streets near Plaza Mayor. There are always policemen outside the fire station there, and he ran straight into their arms.