• So long and thanks for all the cards

    Hello everyone,

    So I just learned that will close its platform in December. That means that this blog will no longer be accessible online. I am a bit sad about that, since I still have some cards with the address on it, but oh well.

    I hope you have learned something by following me, and that you will be more aware of your surroundings from now on. Not only for pickpockets, but also for other people around you. Life will be much better when people realize they are not alone in that metro train. I had a lot of fun with this, and I probably will continue to give cards to oblivious persons, so you are not off the hook yet.

    Thank you for reading this blog!


  • Busted

    Wow, this one is great. It happened last week in China:

    A pickpocket's victim decided to take revenge by sticking a sign reading 'I am a thief' to the criminal's back, who was then pictured as he tried to steal from others.

    (ref. Mail Online)


    If you ever see me putpocketing someone, please feel free to do this to me and send me the picture! :)

  • Paranoia

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm not being a bit too much paranoid about pickpockets. I mean, I have constantly my hand in my bag, I am suspicious of all other passengers on the bus, I talk about it to my colleagues, hell I even write a blog about it! Of course I know people who have been pickpocketed, but they were abroad, in France, Brasil, Spain! But here, in Montreal? Maybe I am over-reacting. Or am I?...


    I honestly think pickpockets are not as big a problem here as they are in Europe or South America. Perhaps it is because in North America, we have more problems with muggers and grab-and-run thieves. Or is it that we are too naive to believe that our wallet has been stolen? "Nah, I just lost it..."

    Nevertheless, pickpockets in Montreal may not be a problematic, but they are a reality. Although fewer than in the big tourist destinations, they still exist. Don't become paranoid about it, just add some precautions to your daily transits. Keep your valuables away from reach and go help those old ladies walking up the stairs.

  • Comic strip

    One of my friends sent me this nice comic strip. Don't worry, it's not exactly what I do! Sorry I had to split it in two in order to have a readable size. Click on the pictures to enlarge!


  • Pleasant surprise

    I'm always happy when I receive good feedback about my blog, but I never expected any gifts from a reader! This happened to me a few weeks ago: a writer contacted me about his books! The author, Andrew MacRae, wrote two novels about pickpockets and generously gave me a copy of his books. It seems he's been reading my blog and wanted to share his novels with other pickpocket fans! Visit his website or click on the books to see the description on Amazon:

    misdirected miscal

    I must admit I was quite flattered when the main character pulled the putpocket act in the second novel, and I like to think I had something to do with this! I really enjoyed reading these books and I would like to thank Mr. MacRae for sharing them with me. Thanks!

  • Zip it

    Planning some summer vacations? You know my usual recommendations: beware of your surroundings! Wear shoulder bags with the straps across your chest or keep your wallet in your front pocket. And zip your pockets! But I found this nice gadget that can hold your important stuff and keep it out of reach of pickpockets:


    The Zip It Gear Pocket Sock is a sock created for men and women that has a large enough pocket to hold cash, credit cards, and an ID. The zipper will not set off any metal detectors and is a good spot to hide important items that you wouldn’t want stolen. The design of the sock helps keep the socks up so the weight of whatever you put in the pocket will not fall out or cause the sock to fall down. (ref. Zip It Gear)

    Enjoy you vacations and don't let your guard down!

  • If the hat fits...

    Riding the bus or the metro is already annoying enough as it is, yet people still find the way to make it worse. I'm not sure anymore if my campaign is against pickpockets or nincompoops on public transit. I'm sorry for those reading this who found a card in their pockets, but if you did, that's probably because you were taking unnecessary space or being a nuisance to other people in the train. Seriously, is it that hard to be conscious of the other passengers?

    I see all kinds of people, playing on their phones and not giving their seated places to seniors or pregnant women, refusing to move further down the bus, monopolizing poles and seats, not letting other passengers get down from the train before going in, sharing their music tastes with everyone... I just can't stand this kind of behavior, and I make it a personal quest to give a card to such persons.

    I came across the Tumblr "Move the F*k Over Bro" and "Move the F*ck Over Sis", where you can find pictures of people with complete lack of good manners. If the hat fits...

    2_a a_1

    Try reading the STM campaign against such behavior : Riding together - Make it better! Perhaps you can learn a thing or two and become a model citizen!

  • Happy New Year 2014 !

    Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all health and wealth, but let's start by keeping whatever wealth we've got... I came across this really good campaign of the British Transport Police (BTP) about pickpockets, which gives videos and tips on how to avoid being a victim.

    Beware Campaign of the BTP

    One of my favorite tricks is to use an ultra violet property marker to write your post code and house number on valuable possessions. It won't stop any pickpockets but you might have some luck in getting you stuff back!


    Be careful this year, spread the word and beware of pickpockets!

  • Putpockets for everyone

    Putpocketing is becoming quite popular these days, and I'm almost upset about not being so original after all! But there are good initiatives out there and if you are lucky enough, you might encounter a putpocket that will give you something else than just a card...

    Lately, Samsung used that marketing technique to put smartwatches on people's wrist without them noticing it to promote their Galaxy Note 3.

    In 2010, during the Salon du livre in Paris, Éditions Points putpocketed books into people's pockets.


    Even a 2008 Burger King ad features putpocketing!

    And more and more, I hear about magicians or former pickpockets in London and around the world who actually putpocket money.

    So in the end, I might no be so original, and a card may not be as fun as a book or a watch... but I hope you don't let your bags open in the hope to receive a gift, because for each putpocket out there, there is a thousand pickpockets awaiting an opportunity!

  • Afternoon nap

    We've probably all done it. Coming back from work or a party, one day or the other we fall asleep in public transport. Not necessarily a nap, but dozing off for a few minutes, it happens to me all the time. Of course, no need to mention the consequences if pickpockets happen to be on the same bus.


    A very kind pickpocket (I guess) gave a tourist a valuable lesson in China, some years ago:

    A visitor to Guilin, a popular tourist destination in Guangxi, received a letter from the pickpocket who stole his wallet pointing out the folly of napping on a public bus.

    But the thief was not just rubbing salt in. Accompanying his unsigned note were some important documents stolen along with the man's 800 yuan (US$97) cash. It was something of a consolation for the victim who had been extremely worried over the loss of the certificates, which would be difficult to replace, reports the Nanguo Morning Post.

    (China Daily December 24, 2004)

    Source :

    He was lucky, in a way. Some pickpockets could have sold these papers to identity thieves, or most likely just have thrown them in the garbage. His misfortune is our lesson of the day : don't fall asleep in public transport. Or at least try to.

  • Back to school

    Summer is over and it's time to go back to work. If you don't feel safe in your work environment, here's a simple way to carry your valuables...


    I'm kind of happy that temperatures are dropping, because people start wearing jackets with more accessible pockets. More over, it's also back to school, and the metro is so crowded that giving cards has become a piece of cake. Do I need to tell you to be extra careful? Of course I do.

  • Sly sunscreen

    Since I got those new cards I'm on fire! With the help of a friend, we've putpocketed more than 10 cards in a week, not a bad start! In summer, pockets are less accessible, so we aim for open purses and bags. Is it so hard to take one extra second to zip it up?

    Summer is also the time for vacations! With the weather we've been having recently, when it's not raining, it's darn hot, and beaches become very appealing. Here's an easy way to keep your valuable safe (or at least less tempting for thieves):


    You should always keep an eye on your belongings at the beach. Sometimes, renting a little locker might not be a bad idea. Enjoy the sun!

  • Back in business

    So I ran out of cards a couple of months ago, and wasn't sure if I'd keep on going the putpocket act. It took 3 years to give my 250 cards and that wasn't always easy! (although always fun) However, my blog was more popular than I originally thought, and a friend talked me into printing more cards, so here I am! Back in business with a new design:


    Thanks to everyone for reading this blog and hopefully you'll find a card in your bag, pocket or purse soon enough!

  • Thou shalt not steal

    Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel is indeed incredible, and one can just look up at the ceiling for hours. Lost in the contemplation of religious art, we become easy targets for pickpockets, who don't really care about the 8th commandment... Professional tour guides – some of whom have been pick-pocketed themselves – are so fed up with thieves that they threaten to call a strike in protest. They wish to have more security for visitors, as the thefts become more and more aggressive.

    Read the whole story here.


    Last month, in Paris, the employees of the Louvre went on a strike too, for the same reason (read here). We always knew pickpockets were a problem in any travel destination, but should we worry that even the locals have had enough?

    In any case, always keep your belongings close to you, be aware of your surroundings and enjoy the museums :) !

  • Karma

    Just saw this on evening news, thought I'd share it with you! Footage from CCTV in a bus station in Bogota. Watch the thief in the yellow shirt as he tries to steal the woman's phone, then attempts to escape :

    (if you can't see this, try this link :

    Guess karma exists after all.

  • Sad but avoidable

    Most of you must have heard of the tragedy that recently happened in the metro, of a young girl who fell in between two wagons because she was too distracted by her phone and didn't look in front of her when entering the metro. It's sad to say, but had she been paying the slightest bit of attention this terrible accident would have been avoided.

    It's also sad that no one noticed her falling and probably screaming. Had anyone been paying the slightest bit of attention this terrible accident would have been avoided.

    I think you get my point. I can't stress this enough: it's important to be aware of your surroundings, always, and especially when you are in a potentially dangerous situation. This goes for accidents like this, but also for pickpockets. If you can't even notice a girl falling in the metro, how do you expect noticing someone being pickpocketed?

    What people should do is stop being such individualists lost in their little world, and come back to reality. Instead of blaming the lack of security, let's responsibilize ourselves and open our eyes to what's going on around us.

    Read the story here

  • War against phone thefts

    Good news for the victims of cell phone thefts! (well...) Last November, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) announced that by September 20, 2013, all phones reported lost or stolen will become unusable on Canadian and international networks. The CWTA will deny service to any device in their database of stolen phones. This blacklist is designed to help eliminate the black market, thus reducing the value of smartphones for criminals.

    Read the press release here.

    This should have direct impact on thieves, as it becomes more difficult (and less interesting) to resell stolen smartphones. I'm glad the industry finally does something about it! Hopefully, cell phone thefts are going to decrease in the next few months. However, remember that talented criminals will surely find a loophole eventually, so the fight is never really over. Always be careful! And immediately inform your provider and the police if you lose your cell phone.

    France. Yet an other sign. Again.

  • Bon voyage

    I've been on a trip in France for the last two weeks now, and the dynamic about pickpockets here is so different than in Quebec. People actually take the problem seriously. There are signs of "Beware of pickpockets" almost everywhere, near ATM machines, in the metro, in restaurants... even in the Louvre, there are these huge signs everywhere that totally ruin the décor:


    But I guess they must be there for a good reason. In the metro, I was so obviously a tourist with my luggage, and a Parisian told me to beware of pickpockets. Quite ironic for someone to tell me that!

    So far my trip has been very nice, and paranoid as I am I never keep anything of value in my pockets. Luckily it's a bit cold here, so I can wear two jackets and keep my wallet far from greedy hands.

    I'm kinda excited by all this awareness of pickpockets here, and I just might change my mind about reprinting some cards. Watch out when I get back to Montreal... ;)

  • Muggers

    I've recently had a conversation with collegues about iPods and cellphones thefts in public transit. They called it pickpocketing, but I had to disagree: pickpocketing is an art of subtlety, and it has nothing to do with muggers who use violence.

    Unfortunately, these assaults seem to happen a lot, so I might as well talk about it. Watch out when someone asks you what time it is: when you take out your smartphone to give an answer, it is easy for the mugger to grab it and run away. In a matter of seconds, he's lost in the crowd, and you are too shocked to react promptly.

    Muggers don't always use scams like this. Usually, they simply push their victim and grab a purse, headphones or iPod, and run. I've read stories of women walking down the streets, and thieves on a scooter or in a car just ripped them of their purse and got away. Always keep your purse on the opposite side of the traffic! Some muggers will use weapons, like a knife or even a gun. No use dealing with them, give them what they want. What's your life's worth?

    Anyway, muggers lack refinement compared to real pickpockets. In a way though, I don't know which is the nastiest. At least, muggers give you the time to react or run after them. When it comes to pickpockets, you'll notice you've been robbed only when the thief is miles away, and there is nothing you can do about it. Remember that in any case, being aware of your surroundings and noticing unusual behaviors are your best ways to avoid being a victim. Eye contact is a powerful weapon that stresses out any thief!


    Happy birthday to my blog! After 3 years, 230 cards slipped into pockets and 120,000 pageviews, I think we've been through the matter. I'm not quitting however, but I will update less frequently. The truth is, my stock of cards is running low, and I don't intend to renew it for the moment... I'm counting on you guys to share this blog and your knowledge of pickpockets to your friends and family! Thanks for reading me!

  • Fellowship

    I usually try not to talk about this blog to the people I know, because you never know how they'll react and if they can keep the secret. But recently, I have shared my mischievous hobby with a good friend, and now he helps me out with the task of giving cards. And wow! It's so much easier working with someone, and also much more fun. We've given more cards in one week than me solo in the last 3 months. Thank you!

    But that's not all. A reader shared his own story of put-pocketing. Using pieces of paper similar to the cards, he and his friend had a lot of fun at Disneyland :

    I was rather nervous about putting (even though it was my idea). But whenever i saw a wide open bag or a gaping coat pocket, I would put when i could. My favorite time that night however, was when we took a break from the fun and rides, and went into the gift shops. There were crowds of people, all distracted and looking at various items on the shelf. This is when me and my friend went to work.

    We moved through the crowds trying to position ourselves the best we could. My job most of the time was to be the spotter. I would point out targets that i thought were weak or distracted, with gaping pockets and bags. I would signal my friend, and then block the situation. It was very easy. I also had a few good puts. Often random bags that would be wide open. I would just pass by and drop the paper into the bag.

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    And we get the confirmation that working with a faithful companion is good not only for blocking, but also to help with the nerves. Hurray for team synergy!


    As much as I want one of these, I doubt we'll go unnoticed...

  • Delightful fall

    Autumn and its cold weather are back and so am I! With the return of coats, I can easily give two or three cards every week. It's good to be back!

    Let's not forget that I am not the only one happy with this, and some may have less honorable intentions than me... I am always surprised to see how careless people can be in the metro. Wallets carried in coat pockets, purses wide open, valuable items in unsecured pockets... I swear, I had my hand on wallets, house keys and opus cards more than once, and had my purpose been different, some people could have gone home with a bad surprise!

    So once again I can't stress this enough: be aware of your surroundings. Keep your bag or purse in sight and closed, secure your pockets, and don't carry anything valuable in outer coat pockets. Out of sight, out of mind. And out of your pocket.


    I would never dare to do such a thing, but it sure would be... delightful.

  • Among us we understand

    I'm always overly excited when I come across some news about gentlemen thieves and such. As you probably imagined already, I am a huge fan of Arsene Lupin & Co and I can only smile at the thought that some real life criminals share my enthusiasm.

    This week, I found an article in Le Parisien , about a gentleman pickpocket operating in Paris. Elegantly dressed, nice and sweet, he never uses violence and is almost invisible when working. He pickpockets employees of restaurants and takes a sneak peek at PIN numbers befores stealing wallets and credit cards. He has 17 false identities and has been on over 50 cases. He was arrested in 2009 by luck: a police officer came across him after his work day and arrested him. I don't know if I sould be scared or happy to know that such talented pickpockets exist...

    My other discovery is that article about "Arsene Lupin in Real Life" which is kinda funny, I let you read it :

    real life arsene

    ref : The Straits Times, 1 March 1921, Page 12

    Okay, this is a little outdated (1921 !) and nowadays it would be very suspicious to meet anyone with a monocle...! But surely this man was a fan, just like me!

  • Summer Olympics

    It seems the Olympic Games in London attract pickpocket gangs from all over the world! Scotland Yard says it has received intelligence that organised gangs from South America and Eastern Europe are planning a crime blitz during the Olympic Games. They are serious about this, as showed by the 9,000 extra police officers looking for thieves. Police say such gangs pose one of the biggest criminal threats to the Games.

    According to administrative sources, around 1,700 people fall victim to the pickpockets every day in crowded streets. Over 80,000 complaints of theft have been registered with the police. The authorities have arrested 80 pickpockets since Friday and they are conducting surprise raids to arrest thieves in the streets.

    Since the best athletes of the world are all gathered in one place, it's only fit to find the best pickpockets there as well. With all the training, hard-work and audacity they deploy, aren't they athletes in their own way?


    Police Specials

  • Gentlemen pickpockets

    The Flower Council Of Holland had a great idea to promote ornamental horticulture in Netherlands. Last year, they hired pickpockets to operate in the streets of Paris and metro stations... and to put flowers in the bags of unsuspecting civilians!


    Those real life Arsène Lupin had a hard time with their mission, though. It's not easy to get close to someone and to give an eye-catching colored flower without being seen! Nevertheless, they managed to give 500 flowers in one day, for the sole purpose of "giving happiness, a smile and some fun"...

    ref : Le Parisien

  • Pickpocket for President

    Some pickpockets aim for the top! They show us that you are never completely safe in a crowd, even surrounded by bodyguards...

    In this video you can see former president of France Nicholas Sarkozy having his watch almost pickpocketed during a handshake:

    He was able to keep it, but rapidly took it off his wrist and put it in his pocket. This isn't a first: in 2007, Georges Bush, probably the most guarded person on the planet, had his watch stolen in Albania! You can see it clearly at 0:55 in this video:

    In 2002, this sort of thing have been tried on François Bayrou aswell, a candidate for the French elections. However, the man realised it in time and slapped the kid who was pickpocketing him. Funny enough, 10 years later, this kid (nicknamed Bayrou after the incident) is now facing charges for violence against police officers, and his police record is already well-loaded. Looks like that "paternal slap" didn't do much good!

    Once again I apologize, I didn't even slipped one card this month. Of course, with all those students massive strikes, you might think I would have been able to give one or two... I'm gonna blame it all on sheer laziness.

  • Party animal

    I am not too big into the club scene, but sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't go out more often. There are so many possibilities out there for a pickpocket to have fun... and I am not talking about dancing! Bars and clubs are great grounds for pickpockets: people are in incredibly cramped, crowded rooms badly lit with loud noise and plenty of distractions. People tend to be more flirty and touchy with drinks and dancing, which makes it far much easier for thieves to go unnoticed.

    Girls, don't take your purse with you when you go out, except if you don't mind dancing with it, or if you have a friend who you can keep it for you. Purses are easily snatched when no one is looking. Boys, be careful: that woman might not be touching your butt in a flirting purpose.


    So you've had a nice night in the club? You're not off the hook yet. Pickpockets like to hang around clubs in the middle of the night, when those who have had one too many walk erratically toward the bus station. Target acquired. A couple of drinks won't hurt, after all you are there to get loose, but always be cautious not to get too drunk. And if you are still sobber at the end of the party, watch out for the friendly drunks getting too close to you, they might not be as drunk as they look.

    I've talked a lot about pickpockets on public transportation, but they can be present in any noisy crowd. Always be careful!

  • Fool me twice

    I want to apologize, it's been a while since my last update. To tell the truth, I have been extremely lazy lately and I have no excuse for slacking... On top of that, I only gave 2 or 3 cards in all March, shame on me! I think I'm getting old.

    Anyhow, a reader shared a good tactic to keep safe: instead of keeping your money in your wallet, use a different object, like a cardholder, or a cigarette case. It might seem a bit farfetched, but thieves target mainly wallets, and there's a good chance you can send them on a wrong track. However, pickpockets often spy on their mark, waiting for them to reveal where they keep their wallet: if you are seen using your cigarette case to hold your cash, you're as good as any other schmuck.

    The solution is to keep some money in both your cardholder (or whatever) and your wallet, and only use your wallet. If you are victim of a theft, at least all money is not lost.

    Incidentally, if you are interested in conman's argot, take a look at this website: Scoundrel's Slang ! If you hear this jargon while travelling, beware!

  • Awareness campaign

    According to Alain Larivière, the head of the metro division of the Montreal police, the theft of electronic devices is one of the fastest growing crimes in the metro and increasing annually. [...] In fact, this morning police in Montreal, Longueuil and Laval are out on the street conducting an awareness campaign with people, telling them about how to keep their electronic devices safe from thieves.

    Ref : Phone theft rising in Montreal’s metro

    After two years of being a "putpocket" and doing my best to draw attention to the problem, I must say I am glad to see this initiative from the police. I'd like to think I have something to do with it but I highly doubt it (although it's possible?)... Since last Wednesday, I have read many articles about iPhones thefts and how to prevent it, and there's even publicity in the metro's passenger information display system. Hurray! My mission in this world is accomplished.

    Read more on the SPVM's website

    In June 2011, the police had already arrested a group of thieves related to 150 crimes in the metro. If you witness such a theft, implying violence or not, you can play a greater role by activating one of the four red emergency brakes in each metro car or using the red telephone on the platform signalling a uniformed employee to come.


    There exists an app called iGotYa, which can help you track down a thief who stole your precious smartphone. The app snaps a picture of the mugger when he enters a wrong password to get into the iPhone, and then emails the picture to you along with its GPS coordinence. Clever!

    Ref : CyberPresse

  • How to pickpocket : Lesson Four

    In my previous post "How to pickpocket : Lesson Three", I said that pickpockets rely on speed and distraction to steal a wallet in a flash. While this is true for most pickpockets, some also like to take their time. It all depends on the situation: a pickpocket can't be subtle while jerking a wallet out of tight pants! However, for loose pants, purses, jacket pockets and backpacks, a stealthy approach is very much indicated.

    And finally I am on known territory, because this is what I do when giving a card. Very slowly, I get close to my victim, always looking away, as if trying to read the metro map. When I'm close enough, I cover my movements with whatever I can, a book, my scarf, the newspapers... Sometimes, I move my hands a lot, look at my watch, put it back near the victim, then put it on my bag, then near the victim... without noticing, the victim gets accustomed to having my hand around him. Same goes for my newspapers, I like to open it wider than needed, push the victim a little, just to be annoying. This is fun because most of the time, when people are annoyed, they frown and look away! And now it's time for my fingers to find their way.

    Now the most difficult part of this is NOT to watch what I'm doing. People will instinctly follow your eye and look at whatever you are looking at, and in this case I don't want this. The eye is also attracted by movements, so it is important for me to conceal my hands and to look natural. My fingers brush the coat, or the bag, in search of a zipper or an opening... when I find it, I insert a card into it very slowly. Since purses and jackets pockets are away from the body, the victims don't feel a thing.


    The most amusing are backpacks: they are so easy to access. Little by little, I open the zipper with one hand, while the other is covering my actions with a book. Sometimes I pull hard on the zipper when the train stops abruptly, or when it gets even more crowded. At first I was afraid someone might feel it, but now I realize that with all the noise, crowd and fatigue, nobody notices. Ask one of your friend to unzip your backpack while you wear it, and you might hear it, but you won't feel it. Plus, I guess it is a personal vendetta against people who don't take off their backpacks in the metro.

    So that is how a put my cards into your pockets, but it is easily transposable to any pickpocket operating with stealth. Be very wary of people taking to much space and getting unnecessarily close to you. Change position regularly and keep you hands near your valuables.

    And please, take off your backpacks.


    Thanks for over 56 000 views!

  • To be precise...

    My inner child was very happy this week for I went to see the movie Tintin. And so was my inner pickpocket! The movie starts with multiple wallet thefts, to my great satisfaction. In fact, the Thom(p)sons seem to have one more trick to add to my previous post Fool me once : the pickpocket-thwarting elastic band... simple but effective!


    Such a wallet actually exists, mounted however on a slash-resistant retractable steel cable, which you can attach to a clip in your bag. Pull the wallet out from the bag and it unspools from an embedded spring-reel. The clip keeps it secure from pickpockets.


    Of course this won't stop a pickpocket who is determined to get your wallet, but you definitely increase your chances of catching the thief red-handed.

    Ref : The Satchel Pages

  • How the Pickpockets Stole Christmas

    Christmas is around the corner, and so is the shopping frenzy! Need a reminder for extra caution?

    According to The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,

    [...] After people reported a pickpocket crime, preliminary interviews revealed that most victims had their wallets exposed during the 30 minutes prior to the theft. Then, they put their wallets back in their bags, purses, or knapsacks on top of other items, making the wallets easily accessible once the pickpocket opened the bag. Closing devices, such as snaps, buckles, zippers, or velcro, proved minor obstacles for the professional pickpocket.

    Victims often unintentionally placed bags in an exposed position on their person, and most victims carried the bag over one shoulder. The pickpocket surveilled the victims and waited for their bags to slip into a vulnerable position to the rear of the victims, instead of at a more secure place under their arms or toward the front of their bodies. A wallet placed in an outer compartment of a knapsack and worn over the shoulders presents an easy target for even the novice pickpocket.

    Incidents increased during cold weather and around holidays. In cold weather, both the pickpocket and the victim wear more clothing, which may facilitate the pickpocket's ability to commit the crime. The extra layers reduce the victim's sense of bodily awareness and provide pickpockets with added cover by shielding movements during the commission of the crime or providing a place to hide the stolen property if they get caught. Additionally, pickpockets simply may shed an outer layer of clothing for one of a different color that they are wearing underneath, thereby confusing identification by the victims and in broadcasts to other patrol officers.

    Well, we already knew about that, but it's a good occasion to remind ourselves to be even more careful than usual during this season. Don't let thieves steal your Christmas! Happy Holidays!


  • Fool me once

    Winter is around the corner and some of you may be planning to take a trip where it's sunny and hot. It's the high season and there will be plenty of tourists on the beaches, so be careful: lots of tourists means lots of pickpockets!

    When speaking to a stranger, always keep your hands on your valuables. If you are sitting on a table outside a café, don't put your camera on the table. Some thieves cover the table with a large map, pretending to ask you for directions, while they grab what they can. Also, don't put your purse on the lap of your chair, or on the ground.

    You can avoid having your wallet taken away with simple tricks. Women, secure your purses with paper clips. Men, you can put a small comb in your wallet, slightly out of it, so that the teeth of the comb grips into the pocket. The wallet can't be taken out of the pocket this way!


    DON'T put a rubber band around your wallet. It makes it easier for the thieves to get a grip on the wallet. If you want to play a nasty trick, use a fake wallet and put it well in sight, filled with newspapers. This will at least divert the attention of any thief who has his eyes on you and while he's getting away with nothing, your real wallet is safe and sound. The fooled pickpocket's face has to be priceless once he discovers the wallet is a decoy.


    The best is to use this method and to divide your money in small amounts hidden in different places on your body (shoes, pouch, front pockets...). Divide to rule!

  • Alone in the crowd

    Pickpockets usually work in gangs, most of the time formed by two or three members. While one creates a distraction, the other one dips into the victim's pocket. A group is also a big help to hide the actions of a guilty hand, when the metro is crowded and there is a lot of possible witnesses. But I came to wonder if all these efforts were not futile. Next time you use public transportation, just look around and you'll understand what I mean.

    No need for someone else to create a distraction: iPhones are doing just fine! Nowadays, people are so caught up in playing Angry Birds, texting a friend or updating their Facebook profile that they don't have a clue of what is happening around them. They keep in touch with everyone but are oblivious to people close by. Any pickpocket just needs to reach out and help himself. Not only is the victim not paying attention, but so is everyone else... no witnesses.


    I understand that the 30 minutes ride to work can be tiresome and that you need to entertain yourself or keep your mind busy, but remember that it makes you a vulnerable target for thieves. So unless you wish your next Facebook status to be "Just been robbed", pay closer attention to your surroundings!

    With my experience - and I honestly think I am slowly starting to gain some, seeing as putting something into a pocket can sometimes be just as difficult as taking something out of it - I can assure you that a pickpocket feels a lot more confident when he knows that no one is looking at him...

  • Good deed

    I discovered by chance two really good books at the Grande Bibliothèque (BAnQ) about pickpockets: Pickpockets! Vingt ans de flagrants délits: un flic parle (Acropole edition) and Metro Connection (éditions france-empire).

    The first one was written by François Abjean, police officer and expert pickpocket hunter whom I talked about in one of my previous posts. The other one is also written by a gendarme, who probably worked with François Abjean in the French police. These cops are part of a special unit made especially to fight the problem of pickpockets in the metro, in Paris.

    Both books (in french) tell the stories of how pickpockets are apprehended. The police officers, wearing civil clothes, spending their time in the metro, detect awkward behaviors and spot pickpockets. Once a thief has his hand on a wallet, they immediatly take him into custody. This is a very important point: they have to wait until the crime is committed, if they want the thief to be sentenced.

    It is also interesting to discover the cop's point of view. It seems to be a never ending war for them, as pickpockets are often back in the streets two or three days after they arrested them.


    Although written almost 30 years ago, it still is filled with relevant information about pickpockets. Both agree that the golden age of pickpockets was in the 70's, when tourists used to carry a lot of money on them. Nowadays, tourists prefer credit cards, which are more troublesome for pickpockets (carrying someone else's credit card is more incriminating than unmarked bills!). Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that there are no thieves in the metro: they simply adapted to today's society. The content of the books may seem a bit outdated, but it helps to comprehend the evolution of pickpockets and gives us a better understanding of the ways to fight them.


    My good deed of the day: I noticed a woman with a huge packsack in the metro. One of the pockets of her packsack was wide open, and I could distinctly see the 10$ bills within easy reach. I kindly told her to be careful and to zip the pocket. (Truth : I didn't have any Beware of pickpockets cards left.) All this while reading François Abjean's book! If you come across something similar, you can prevent crime by doing the same...

  • Deja vu

    Today I had a feeling of deja vu. Remember when I talked about that woman beggar in the metro, in my post Liar, Liar? Well I saw her again today. The SAME woman. This time, she didn't have enough money to go back to Mont Tremblant and she was stuck in Montreal. And people actually gave her money (again)! I was stunned and disgusted. I regret not taking her to the bus station and sending her to her "hometown". Really, I should have done it.

    I can't believe people still get caught into this. It's clearly a lie, and beggars will do anything to touch your sensitive spot. Be careful and don't become the gullible fool. I beg you.


    And next time I see her, I swear, I'm taking her to the bus station!

  • Bad Feng Shui

    It’s bad Feng Shui to put your purse on the floor. Apparently, there’s an old Chinese proverb that states: “A purse on the floor is money out the door.” Couldn't be more accurate.

    Purses are probably the favorite place to lift from for pickpockets. The goods inside are not in contact with the mark at all, women always carry more money than they need, and the purse itself is designed to be easy to get into so that means easy latches/clips, and usually a flap that covers the top. It's easy for a pickpocket to dip without being noticed.


    And if the purse is on the floor, it's even easier for pickpockets. They hook one foot in the strap of the purse, and pull it towards them. Then, they reach down, unclasp the purse and take the goods. Finally, they push the purse back over to the mark, get up, and walk out.

    To prevent such a thing from happening, you can simply wrap the strap around your leg. This way, you will feel it if someone wants to take your purse away. However, always remember that the floor is not the best place to leave all your valuables. You wouldn't want bad feng shui, now would you?

    Ref. : Pants, Jackets and Purses - Pickpocketing Guide

  • Grannies' mob

    To prove that a pickpocket can be ANY type of person, I found a very interesting article about a pickpocket gang... made up of middle-aged and elderly women.

    Sterling Heights, MI, 'Mad Hatters': Female Pickpocket Ring Allegedly Steals $500,000
    Police in the tony Detroit suburb say an all-female criminal ring, made up of middle-aged and elderly women, are running a sophisticated con in which they allegedly pick the pockets of unsuspecting shoppers and use the stolen credit cards elsewhere.
    Nicknamed the "Mad Hatters," the ring is made up of at least six women who frequently wear hats to disguise their identities and have allegedly swiped more than $500,000 in the past year and half, authorities say.

    One bank alone estimated it had lost at least $200,000 at the hands of the hatters.

    More on ABC News


    So next time you go to the mall, maybe you'll look differently at that sweet old lady buying peppermints...!

  • Jazz it up

    It's the Jazz Festival once again in Montreal, and I can only warn you to be very careful! The massive crowd and multiple distractions give this event the perfect conditions for pickpocket work. As a matter of fact, I am quite sure I felt a hand on my bag! Then again, I am probably paranoid, and that woman probably accidently bumped into me. Or did she?!

    That reminds me, I have been reading an old book about types of criminals, and the author seems to believe that women pickpockets are just a myth. Well, he's WRONG. Never forget that pickpockets can be anyone, man or woman, child or old man, it makes no difference. If you think otherwise, then you are most likely to be the victim of one of them. Remember that women possess a valuable pickpocket ability: they can be very... distractive.

    And remember my post On a silver... Plateau: you don't need to travel very far to meet pickpockets. They are right here in Montreal; in any crowd there will be a pickpocket, if not a professionnal, at least an opportunist, so always stay aware!


    Enjoy the festival but keep your hand on your valuables: pickpockets love crowds.

    Thanks for over 20 000 views!!

  • Three Card Monte

    Born in the mid 1800's, the Three Card Monte hasn't change much since, and although it is renowned to be a hustle, people still fall for it. It's simple: the card man has three cards, a red queen and two black cards. He tosses the three cards on the table, shuffles them and asks you to find the lady. In fact it's so simple that it seems there is no way you can lose! Don't be fooled: the victime never wins money.

    The Monte has several steps: first, the victim is attracted by the game, often because a beautiful lady (the hook) pushed him in, or maybe just out of curiosity. If the victim was with his girlfriend, it won't take long that they'll be split up by the crowd, so the girl doesn't interfere with the bets.

    Then, the straight toss: the card man tosses the cards slowly, so that it's obvious where the queen is. At this point, the victim doesn't want to bet, but he'll be following the queen to see if he's got what it takes. Another guy puts money on the card, and wins. The victim takes confidence, because it was the card he would have bet on, too. Also, the card man may offer a free game to the victim, no money involved, so that he can see how easy that game is. Of course, the winner is a member of the Monte team (the shill) : remember, nobody ever wins. The victim can also be forced closer to the game to lay a bet for another player (maybe a beautiful blonde?)... yet another shill.


    Now, the hype. After a couple of straight tosses, the victim is ready to bet; the card man tosses the cards. However, this time the toss is slightly different, although it looked the same. The queen isn't where the victim thinks it is, and he loses the bet. Magicians will often swap the winning card for a THIRD losing card. This is never done by con artists despite being depicted this way in films, tv and books.

    If, by any luck, the victime bets on the queen, then he'll be outbid by a shill who'll bet on a different card. Gotta take the highest bet... the victim will never be allowed to place a winning bet and get the money. Plus, this will infuriate the victim, as he saw he had chosen the right card, and he'll put more money on the next round -- this time on the wrong card.

    If the victim becomes agressive, then the Heavy will bump in, and you don't want that. This guy is a professionnal who hurt people for a living.

    If the police gets too close, the wall-men will shout "Slide!" and the game breaks up. Everyone vanished before you know it.

    And there are many more variations of the game. So let's resume: the card man, the hook, shills, the heavy, wall-men... in a game of Monte, the victim might be the only person involved who isn't a member of the team! There is no such thing as an honest game of Monte: stay away from it. Whatever others may tell you, scammers will never let you win a couple of bets. Whenever you see anybody win at Monte, he's part of the team.

    Of course, if the victim doesn't bet and only wants to watch, the game is a massive distraction to allow pickpockets to crowd in and pick the victim clean.

    (ref. How to Cheat at Everything, by Simon Lovell, Running Press)

  • Walking down the lane

    In the middle of pickpocketing season, subways and streets are crowded with tourists. Everyone complains about waddling gangs of tourists blocking the sidewalks of this fair city, but nobody ever does anything about it. Until NOW.


    As you can see from this photo, taken at 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue, a NY-based improv group has taken action to separate those taking care of business in this town from those who just come to marvel, slack-jawed and staggering. This was of course a prank...

    But the locals like it : "If tourists would just stay in their lane, maybe the pickpockets would stop bothering the rest of us!"

    Ref :

  • Lost in translation

    Following my post about travel, here's a little dictionnary that might come in handy in a foreign country. If a pickpocket succeeds in taking away your wallet and you notice it, you may want to yell Stop thief! So just to make sure someone around you understands what you are trying to say, here's how to say it in a couple of language :

    Arabic : Kef ya haraamy
    Chinese : Zhuā zéi
    Danish : Stop tyv
    French : Au voleur
    German : Haltet den Dieb
    Greek : Stamatísei kléfti
    Italian : Al ladro
    Japanese : Dorobō o teishi suru
    Polish : Zatrzymać złodzieja
    Portuguese : Parar ladrão
    Russian : Derzhi vora
    Spanish : Dejar de ladrón
    Swedish : Ta fast tjuven
    Turkish : Hırsız durdurmak
    Vietnamese : Ngăn chặn kẻ trộm

    The word thief is in bold, so you may want to use only this word if you are in panic... You can also use the word pickpocket :

    Chinese : Páshǒu
    Danish : Lommetyv
    French : Pickpocket
    German : Taschendieb
    Greek : Lopodýtis
    Italian : Borseggiatore
    Japanese : Suri
    Polish : Kieszonkowiec
    Portugese : Punguista
    Russian : Karmannik
    Spanish : Carterista
    Swedish : Ficktjuv
    Turkish : Yankesici
    Vietnamese : Ngươi moc tui

    But there is a good chance that if you yell "PICKPOCKET!" someone will understand you! I sincerly hope you won't have to use this little dictionnary on your next vacation!

    Eiffel tower
    In the Eiffel Tower's elevator, in Paris, there is a sign with "Beware of pickpockets" written in french, english, spanish and german, for tourists.

  • Have pockets, will travel

    Planning a trip? Great! Pickpockets LOVE tourists, because they are vulnerable and away from their comfort zone. Don't let them ruin your vacations. As a tourist, you are their number one target.

    You've probably heard of the money belt or the pouch. I've never tried any of them, but personally, I think nothing yells "I'm a tourist!" more than a pouch under your shirt. Some say it's very effective, but I'm sure a lot of pickpockets have specialized in stealing money belts and pouches... I prefer to keep as little cash as possible when travelling. Divide and rule : don't keep your money in one single place. I can bear with the loss of a portion of my travel money, at least better than with the loss of all my vacation budget.

    I think your best chance is to avoid looking like a tourist. And if it's not possible (my accent often kinda gives it away), try to look confident, to know where you are going. If you need to look at a map, do it in a store or with a wall at your back. If you feel unsafe, be unpredictable and suddenly change direction, or enter a closeby store to gather yourself and perhaps make the pickpockets lose interest in you.


    The fun thing in travelling is talking to strangers and discover an other culture. I don't want you to become so paranoid that you stop having fun when travelling! Just pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye on your valuables when engaging a conversation with a stranger.

    If you have read this blog, you are now well informed about how pickpockets operate, and I'm sure you will be careful and aware. So stay away from hot spots and have a good time!

  • Watch your back

    Carrying a winter coat around can be annoying and burdensome. If you are like me, boy are we glad to take it off, place it on the back of a chair, take a brake and have a coffee. And if you are like me, you are smart enough not to put any valuable in your coat.

    This is a common scheme of pickpockets. A thief looks for an unsuspicious customer, with a coat hanging on the back of his chair, then sits down at the table behind the mark, back to back. Without turning around, the pickpocket takes anything he finds out of the mark's coat pockets, pretending to be searching in his own pockets.


    Remember to keep sight of your valuables. Of course, women, do not hang your purse on the back of your chair as well.

    You can watch it in action on the Real Hustle, with Alex pickpocketing 3 victims in one sitting... no pun intended ;) ! (Starts at 0:44min)

    Forewarned is forearmed.

    Thanks for over 10 000 hits!

  • That'll teach them

    Risky, being a pickpocket? Hardly. Remember, when I wrote that only 25% of all pickpockets are ever apprehended (see post Need motivation?)? And I think I'm being generous. The truth is, even if a pickpocket is arrested, he's probably not going to prison. He's likely to be released the next day. Even if caught in action.

    François Abjean, a French police officer, spent 30 years catching pickpockets, and has arrested many great thieves and gangs (over 8000 pickpockets throughout his career!). However, since each theft is usually a petty amount, pickpockets are lightly judged. The biggest fall François Abjean has seen is a 4 months sentence in jail. Ouh, that'll teach them. It's not very deterrent, and thieves are soon back in the streets. (read more on Le Parisien - french article)

    In Brussels, a pickpocket was caught in action on a Friday night, and released on Saturday. Oh, yeah, he learned his lesson... Less than an hour later, he was caught again trying to steal a purse! (read more on RTL info - french article)

    All I'm saying is that it is ridiculous to hope for their redemption with such "deterrent" measures. The only thing these thieves learn is that they don't risk much and they can continue their larceny. As said in the movie Batman Begins : "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding". Law needs to be more strict about such crimes.


    It's no use trying to teach them ; no matter how many times he gets beaten, that little pickpocket will go on and on.

  • Big Brother

    I’ve already mentioned the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing street crime, so I’d like to go deeper into the subject. It’s very controversial, as many people believe it violates their privacy rights. I understand it’s not always comfortable knowing you’re being watched, but let’s not overlook the benefits of this security system.

    It’s not a panacea for preventing crime, but CCTV can help at reducing property crime in public places (such as car thefts). It ensures a quick and effective deployment of officers to the scenes of violent crimes and provides the police with leads. Offenders are more likely to abandon any idea of conducting a crime if they know they can be recorded by CCTV cameras. Finally, it helps citizens feel safer, as they know the cameras are there for their security, and not on a voyeurism purpose.

    Pickpockets have a reason to fear CCTV, since they can be caught in act by the cameras. If the crime is discovered late, the victim can also identify the moment he’s been robbed on recorded footage with the help of CCTV operators. Although the pickpocket escaped, his face can now be displayed where the theft occurred and police officers will be more vigilant. And now there is a proof of the theft that can be used in court and ensure a suitable sentence for the crime. Pickpocketing just became less safe, and it might dishearten many young and inexperienced thieves.

    So it’s pretty clear I’m in the pro-CCTV clan. It’s not perfect and the dream of a city without crime is utopic, but at least it’s a step closer to living in a safer environment. What about you? Are you afraid of Big Brother?


    On a lighter note, Beware of pickpockets’ blog will be celebrating its first anniversary on January 18. In one year, I’ve reached over 7700 views, and quite frankly I never expected it to become so popular. Thanks to everyone!

    ref : CCTV security systems & their effectiveness in crime

  • Liar, Liar

    Pickpockets have swift fingers, but their words are even swifter. By clever talk, a thief can make you believe anything, make you feel at ease, focus your attention on something... Be very wary of anyone being abnormally talkative and friendly.

    Not all thieves lurk in the shadows and snatch your wallet in silence. In order to get close to you or to distract you, some of them will use their acting talents. They'll pretend being pregnant, lost, ill... some even disguise themselves as tourists to gain the trust of other tourists! Watch out for drunk or crying people getting too close to you.

    Be wary of the beggars. Sometimes they may not be pickpockets, but they can be pretty good liars too. The beggar is not always some poor man asking for a quarter: the most efficient beggars are the good looking ones.

    I've seen this once: a well-dressed normal woman gets into the metro station with a desperate look on her face, and begs: "Could you help me? I'm very sorry to ask you and it feels so humiliating to do this, but my wallet's been stolen and I don't have any money to take the bus back to my hometown. Would you please lend me some cash to buy a bus ticket?" I feel pity for the poor woman. She's a good actor. Then the man by my side takes a twenty out of his pocket and gives it to her! She can do that all day. Maybe she's not that poor after all.

    Beggars who "don't have enough money to buy a ticket" are so common. They are everywhere. They are lost travelers, poor students, unlucky doctors... anything but the real thing. So don't feel insensitive if you want to keep your money. Or if you really want to be a good samaritan, go to the bus station with the beggar and buy him a ticket, and stays with him until he gets into the bus. You'll either make a friend for life or get rid of a petty thief. Well done!

    Every thief is a master liar. It's essential to the job. They have to be fast and able to rally in any situation. It's up to you to know the difference between being a do-gooder or gullible.

    Credits : Off the Mark

    Happy New Year!

  • How to pickpocket : Lesson Three

    Now I'd like to show you more sleight of hand techniques, but the thing is, pickpockets don't use sleight of hand. Not much. They rely on speed and distraction, the theft happens in a fraction of a second. However, in order to complete my pickpocket lessons (see lesson 1 and lesson 2), here are some pictures and more information.

    How to pickpocket
    Lesson Three

    Amateur pickpockets seek opportunity. A purse hanging on the back of a chair, an unattended bag, a sleepy person on the bus... they don't employ any special technique; they just seek out people who've left themselves vulnerable.

    Usually, pickpockets carry jackets or newspapers to cover their hands.
    Credits : How Stuff Works

    Pros will take opportunities as well, but they will also use various techniques to steal wallets (two-finger snag, pushing, slitting, pinch-push...). As said earlier, the snatch must be done swiftly, at the same moment the victim's attention is misdirected somewhere else. The basic approach is to mask the illegal contact with expected contact.

    A pickpocket steals from a back pocket using distraction.
    Credits : Thief Hunters in Paradise

    So as you can see, sleight of hand isn't necessary for pickpockets. They can use slow moves to open bags, or push a wallet, but usually everything happens very fast. It takes a lot of practice though, to be able to jerk a wallet out of a pocket without being noticed and while looking perfectly natural. That's where misdirection comes in handy, and you know how many diversions they can come up with.

    A pickpocket steals (two-finger snag) from the back pocket theft using speed, not stealth.
    Credits : Thief Hunters in Paradise

    Hope this helps you to understand the way pickpockets operate. You may want to have a look to these previous posts to refresh your memory on various stealing techniques :
    How to pickpocket : Lesson Two
    How to pickpocket : Lesson One
    The phantom wallet
    Pinch, push, snatch
    Oops... sorry mister

  • To the Stars

    Last Saturday, I went to see the Fire on Ice musical fireworks, on the Quays of the Old Port. I must say I thought it would be a good opportunity to play my little game... and it sure was.

    Oh yeah, it was. The lights turned off, the fireworks began, and each and every head was raised up towards the sky. It was like a dream, for everyone... especially for pickpockets. I could have done anything I wanted with anyone's pocket.

    But I'm not proud of myself. I must confess, I got hooked up by the fireworks when they played Dragonheart's theme song, To the Stars (I cry every time). And they totally got me with the Sherlock Holmes' theme music. So I spent about thirty seconds looking for targets, and then I gave up and just watched the fireworks. It was wonderful.


    However, I feel I still must warn you about the dangers of an event like that. It's the perfect situation for pickpockets : it's dark and everyone's attention is focused elsewhere. They don't even have to worry about somebody else catching them in action. If you want to enjoy these events and watch fireworks, do as I do : look at the sky but keep a hand on your wallet.

  • Winter is back

    I love winter. People start wearing heavy jackets because of the cold weather, and it makes it so much easier to find targets and to put some Beware of Pickpockets cards! I bet there are a lot of pickpockets happy about the first snow storm, too...

    Pickpockets have more cover to perform their little tricks. With all those winter coats and scarves, it becomes easy to hide any suspicious move. And in order to simplify the thief's task, people have a tendency to put their wallet and other valuables into their coat's front pockets, within easy reach (remember that means easy reach for pickpockets, too!). The coat's pockets are loose, away from the body, and so its contents are out of sight, out of mind... and eventually out of your pocket as well.


    You think you'd feel it if someone stuck his hand in your pocket? Okay, perhaps. But would you feel a pair of tweezers? Pickpockets are creative.

  • What to do

    Imagine the unimaginable : you've been robbed. Now what happens?!

    First thing to do is to look around. The thief is probably long gone, but perhaps you can find your missing wallet or purse. Most often, pickpockets will take the cash and throw away any evidence of their crimes. Look into dustbins, behind benches, under cars. If you can't find it, look further, in discrete places, nearest streets, anywhere the pickpocket could have dumped your goods. A restaurant manager states that he once found tens of wallets and purses in the bathrooms!

    Thieves know that victims are less likely to contact the police if they find their wallet, even if the money's gone. Now there are some nasty pickpockets who will throw your wallet in the sewers. In the eventuality that you can't find what's been stolen from you, it's very important to report the details of the incident as soon as possible.

    If you are in a metro station, speak to a staff member who will send for a security officer. Don't forget to check the STM's Lost and Found, 48 hours after the event. If you're outside, pay a little visit to the nearest police station. Don't hesitate to report the loss of your wallet to the police : they probably can't do much for you, but it will help to get accurate statistics of pickpocketing. If the police sees that the phenomenon is getting out of control, they might take some action to prevent these sort of crimes...


    CCTV has proven to be really effective against pickpockets and other street crimes.


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