A handbag designed to ward off thieves is going fast on the powerhouse home shopping network QVC, which sold out a variety of anti-theft bags after featuring them on air last month.

“I knew it wouldn't deter the most determined of thieves, but I wanted something that would stop opportunists in their tracks.”

- Traveler Kristen Rephser

“Anti-theft features are a very popular, strong growth category,” said Kathy Curtin, vice president of marketing and administration at Travelon, which manufactures the bags. She said demand has never been greater.

“Most of our customers are concerned about their safety and security and buy them for trips outside the U.S.,” Curtin said. “We primarily sell our bags to women who are 30-70 years old. The ‘Crossbody’ messenger style is our top seller."

Kristen Rephser, a 30-year-old software developer from Austin, Texas, bought one for $65 before going on vacation in Portugal. “I knew it wouldn't deter the most determined of thieves,” she said, “but I wanted something that would stop opportunists in their tracks.”

As things turned out, it stopped a brazen thief. Rephser said she was taking photos on a bridge when two men approached.

One man tried to distract her and the other grabbed at her bag, but he couldn't sneak his hand into it. Frustrated, the pair took off empty-handed.

Rephser said the bag’s “lobster claw” clasp system saved her from getting her wallet stolen.

Anti-theft features

Travelon advertises a variety of features to help tourists stay safe, including slash-proof compartments, straps for attaching bags to tables or chairs, locking zippers and secret pockets.

Some also come with RFID blockers to prevent sophisticated thieves from scanning passports.

The company manufactures an exclusive line for QVC that starts at $30. Bags can also be found in stores and on Amazon.

Worth the hype?

But not every traveler is convinced an anti-theft bag is necessary.

“As far as overall value, I would not invest in this bag,” said Melanie St. Jean, an independent retail consultant and owner of Retail Therapy, a Rhode Island-based consulting company that services independent retailers. “Although the price is fairly low, there are other bags that would be more advantageous for travel,” 

St. Jean prefers wearing Tumi bags when traveling in Europe. She also admits to being skeptical when items “sell out” quickly on QVC.

 “All companies hype by saying ‘almost sold out’ or ‘limited quantities,’” she said. “There is always a reserve on shopping networks. They need to have backup for online sales, exchanges and oversells. The faster the sale, the higher profit margin they make off the product.”

Be Alert

When it comes to safety, criminalist Bob Arno, aka the Pickpocketing King, said a smart attitude is the best theft deterrent.

He gave an example: A thief watches a tourist buying a ticket at a train station, and he pays close attention to his wallet.

Is it stuffed way down in a bag and likely hard to reach? Or is it sticking out of the back pocket?

Minutes later, when the crowd heads toward the train, the thief goes for the grab. The distracted victim probably never realizes what happened.

Arno’s advice?

Be alert and keep your hand over your pocketbook, especially in crowded places.

He said a more serious threat to travelers is actually getting mugged. If you’re in real danger, Arno said, it’s better just to give up the bag.