Meet a pickpocket who is more like a magician

Thursday, 10 January, 2013

Apollo Robbins is no ordinary pick pocket, so adept is he at what he does, he is referred to as a “theatrical pickpocket”:

Robbins needs to get close to his victims without setting off alarm bells. “If I come at you head-on, like this,” he said, stepping forward, “I’m going to run into that bubble of your personal space very quickly, and that’s going to make you uncomfortable.” He took a step back. “So, what I do is I give you a point of focus, say a coin. Then I break eye contact by looking down, and I pivot around the point of focus, stepping forward in an arc, or a semicircle, till I’m in your space.” He demonstrated, winding up shoulder to shoulder with me, looking up at me sideways, his head cocked, all innocence. “See how I was able to close the gap?” he said. “I flew in under your radar and I have access to all your pockets.”

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Art smuggling, probably not something that art lovers would enjoy

Wednesday, 17 October, 2012

Michel Van Rijn, once one of the world’s most successful art smugglers, talks about his trade and its ever-present dangers:

Look, I’ve been shot at on three separate occasions, I’ve had guns on my head, I’ve had police chasing me… To survive I have been a chameleon. As you know, I speak many languages. Also, I’m not attached to anything. It’s like living near a fault line – if you hear a noise, pack your things and get the fuck out of there. Don’t become too accustomed to anything. I can sleep like a baby on a little field bed.

There has to be a screenplay in a story like this, if there isn’t already one.

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Would you show kindness to someone who had just robbed you?

Tuesday, 6 December, 2011

After being mugged on his way home from work one evening, New Yorker Julio Diaz responded to the theft in a slightly unusual fashion:

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.

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While crime doesn’t pay, whatever is the point of art theft?

Monday, 25 July, 2011

As with a caper like the theft of Moon rocks in 2002, what is the point of stealing famous works of art when the prospect of selling them is next to non-existent?

We assume that the same creativity that goes into making art would go into stealing it. Instead, the authors show us again and again how artless most art theft is. Art crime, you see, is a dumb crime. With masterpieces in particular, it’s virtually impossible to find a buyer for a stolen work. As the authors write: “A Rembrandt, real or imagined, is far harder to sell than it is to steal.”

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The money or the data, what the resigning employee takes

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

About 50 per cent of workers have admitted to appropriating property of some sort from their employers during their notice period…

49% of US workers and 52% of British workers admitted they would take some form of company property with them when leaving a position.

And while about the same number of workers would peruse confidential files or data they inadvertently obtained access to, very few, less than one per cent, would try to seek any sort of gain from the information they saw, say, by selling it to a competitor for instance.

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Taking from the rich and giving to the poor, we’re all Robin Hood

Tuesday, 18 May, 2010

It seems there is a little of Robin Hood in all of us, at least in terms of taking from the rich to give to the poor, and especially where distributing bootlegged software is concerned.

Our Robin Hood impulses aren’t just vestigial – spurred by laboratory experiments but otherwise dormant – they still show up in the real world. Take Internet piracy, for instance. According to a 2001 New York Times report on a piracy ring, the people who stole software from their firms and handed it to pirates to post for free on the Internet viewed themselves as “Robin Hood” figures, stealing from the rich (the company) to give to the poor (themselves and other consumers like them).

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Don’t be fooled the Mona Lisa on the wall is just an intricate copy

Tuesday, 13 April, 2010

The 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris, far from being the act of an art-lover who simply wanted to hang the famous portrait in their lounge-room, was in-fact part of a plan to facilitate the sale of six forgeries of the painting to US millionaires:

“We began our selling campaign,” recalled Valfierno, “and the first deal went through so easily that the thought ‘Why stop with one?’ naturally arose. There was no limit in theory to the fish we might hook.” Valfierno stopped with six American millionaires. “Six were as many as we could both land and keep hot,” he told Decker. The forger then carefully produced the six copies, which were sent to America and kept waiting for the proper time to be delivered.

Since none of the buyers in question would ever be able to discuss their ownership of the venerable painting, who was ever to know there were six copies, posing as the original, in circulation?

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The best time to compromise security is when there is no security

Friday, 2 April, 2010

Gerald Blanchard knew how to plan a heist, at one point strategically placing listening devices in the structure of a bank while it was still under construction.

As the bank was being built, Blanchard frequently sneaked inside – sometimes at night, sometimes in broad daylight, disguised as a delivery person or construction worker. There’s less security before the money shows up, and that allowed Blanchard to plant various surveillance devices in the ATM room. He knew when the cash machines were installed and what kind of locks they had. He ordered the same locks online and reverse engineered them at home. Later he returned to the Alberta Treasury to disassemble, disable, and remount the locks. The take at this bank was a modest 60 grand, but the thrill mattered more than the money anyway.

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Leaving a little something for burglars may save more for you

Wednesday, 5 August, 2009

This is quite a tried and true tip… leave some money in a conspicuous location and should your home ever be broken into the burglars will most likely settle for what is on offer – as it were – rather than risking a longer foray trying to find further valuables.

Your best strategy, then, is to actually leave some money in obvious places for the burglar to quickly find (the same applies if you keep all your money in the bank). This can not only save your other stash of money, but may actually keep the burglar from destroying your place as he looks for where you have hidden your money. If they believe they may have found the cash that you have in the house, they are much less likely to keep looking (remember, they want to get out asap). In the end, if you hide all your money well, you may win a moral victory in not letting the burglar find the money, but you’ll likely have much more damage done to your place that will end up costing you more in the long run.

The real question is how much cash to leave “out”. This should vary according to where you live, and how affluent your house appears to make you look, with probably a couple of hundred dollars being “expected” should you reside in a well-to-do area.

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Digital piracy is not the same as high-seas piracy

Friday, 17 April, 2009

The recent, often violent, acts of piracy in international waters certainly make the term “digital piracy” seem inappropriate, and have a number of people asking whether another wording should be used instead.

It was a clever name, at least in the beginning. Hijacked movies, music, games, even books – yeah, it’s the outlaws taking from the establishment, creating some wealth for the common man, yada yada. But in recent weeks, as real-life pirate attacks have gained in intensity, violence, and geopolitical meaning, talking about digital thieves as pirates has come to seem clever to a fault, and inaccurate too.

John Gruber suggests the term bootlegging to be more suitable.

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