Pickpocket tricks explained by neuroscience.
So while sleight of hand helps, it’s as much about capturing all of somebody’s attention with other movements. Street pickpockets also use this effect to their advantage by manufacturing a situation that can’t help but overload your attention system. A classic trick is the ‘stall’, used by pickpocketing gangs all over the world. First, a ‘blocker’, walks in front of the victim (or ‘mark’) and suddenly stops so that the mark bumps into them. Another gang member will be close behind and will bump into both of them and then start a staged argument with the blocker. Amid the confusion one or both of them steal what they can and pass it to a third member of the gang, who quickly makes off with the loot.
I’ve seen Apollo Robbins in action. He’s very good.
Posted on July 8, 2014 at 6:22 AM •
“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.
Really—read the whole thing.
EDITED TO ADD (1/6): A video accompanying the article. There’s much more on YouTube.
Posted on January 2, 2013 at 8:44 AM •
It’s a known theft tactic to swallow what you’re stealing. It works for food at the supermarket, and it also can work for diamonds. Here’s a twist on that tactic:
Police say he could have swallowed the stone in an attempt to distract the diamond’s owner, Suresh de Silva, while his accomplice stole the real gem.
Mr de Silva told the BBC that the Chinese men had visited the stall twice and he believed the diamond theft occurred during the first visit and not the second one, when the man swallowed the stone.
He insisted the man was trying to swap a fake stone for the real one and only swallowed the stone when he panicked after Mr de Silva apprehended him and alerted police.
This reminds me of group pickpocket tactics against tourists: the person who steals the wallet quickly passes it to someone else, so if the victim grabs the attacker, the wallet is long gone.
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 7:03 AM •
How do you track down pickpockets?
I stuff my wallet with paper and keep it in my pants pocket. Then I linger in prime tourist spots in foreign cities. Sooner or later, someone steals the wallet, and I try to steal it back.
Yeah. If I successfully steal the wallet back—and I often do—the thief is usually willing to share the latest techniques.
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 5:47 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.