Hands in Your Pockets

Greed Fogs the Mind
  |  Gorp.com

Now here's one that happened to me. One afternoon I was strolling along the bank of the Vltava River that runs through Prague. A silver-haired man wearing a well-pressed suit, topcoat draped over his right arm, walked up to me.

Given his distinguished appearance, I was surprised when he said, "Sir, would you like to change money?" He named an exchange rate substantially above what I knew was the normal black-market rate.

That's when my alarm bell went off. Moneychangers' rates tend to stay within a fairly tight range, so his high offer made me suspicious. He stepped closer, walking along beside me, speaking in an almost confidential tone. I never felt a thing as his right hand slithered out from under his topcoat and into my rear pants pocket but I knew without doubt that his hand would be there. I reached back and clamped down on his wrist.

The way his eyes widened in surprise told me that his clever diversion seldom failed.

Since I never carry a wallet in my real pocket when I travel, his nimble fingers were empty. No loss; no real crime. He knew any traveler would be unlikely to interrupt a trip to file a pointless complaint. When I let go of his wrist, he nodded slightly with a faint smile and walked briskly away without a backward glance.

His gimmick was to use a respectable facade to cause his target to drop his guard, then appeal to the target's greed as a diversion. It must work more often than not or he wouldn't still be doing it.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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