An overt but nonviolent public passer-by pickpocketing or luggage robbery tactic using spilled drinks as highly effective acts of misdirection.

All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heart strings.

-Robert D. Hare

This is a classic con used by both thieves and operatives alike to procure certain contents on the target’s person or other possessions with a false chance encounter in public areas.

Imagine yourself in an unfamiliar city, walking the streets while being navigationally guided yet situationally distracted by using maps on your phone.

You get caught at a red light as a few pedestrians hurry to cross the street heading towards you. Since you have a moment, you check the map again but suddenly one of those people in a rush bumps into you and spills their coffee all over your shirt.

The person is extremely apologetic and embarrassed as he clumsily tries to wipe the coffee off your shirt, giving you a false validation for why a stranger is in your personal space so invasively.

You’re in a slight shock but you keep telling him it’s fine as he continues to try to clean up his mess. You finally get rid of him and he walks away in the opposite direction as you cross the street with the others.

Later on when you need to buy something, you realize in real shock that your wallet is missing.

It was taken during that “accident” with charm, misdirection and a skilled sleight of hand.

It’s a basic con as old as they come but as effective as ever. However, countering a defense is simple:

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Whether you see that tell or not, you should do that anytime a stranger spills a drink on you, just in case.

There are many variations to the ‘spilled coffee shuffle’, such as using any other drink or even food. More importantly, using a partner for this con.

Instead of the “spiller” taking anything from the target, his partner (of whom will usually not be in the line of sight), will snatch the target’s unprotected bag or other luggage that’s laying freely on the ground.

This is a common travel scam directed at tourists in Europe but used against anyone all over the world.

[The featured photo was taken in Los Angeles, USA.]


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4 Comments

  1. Well nothing new unthe sun ha ha !!!I was in a London pub,suprise ??,back in the late eighties with my then girlfriend.This particular pub later went on to feature in the first Mission IMPOSSIBLE Movie staring Tom Cruise.
    We were having a quiet Sunday drink with friends and I made these two (3?) young blokes at the next table -TROUBLE _ALARM !!sEVERAL MINUTES LATER-OVER GOES A HALF PINT OF SOMEONES BEER -DISTRACTION-???tHEY THEN PROCEED TO LEAVE PUB.Some minutes later my girlfriend goes to get another round-NO HANDBAG-LIVE AND LEARN ??fUNNY THING WAS i HAD MADE THEM FOR WHAT THEY WERE SOME TIME EARLIER BUT DID NOT ACT ON MY FIRST INSTINCTS _LIKE I SAID -LIVE AND LEARN-MORAL -BE AWARE/FOLLOW YOUR GUT !!

    TOMMY27

      • Hi John.(HA HA !)
        Great to hear from you directly!!!i picked up on you Web Site via a DOD News Site a couple of months ago.Your insights into travel and life in general are very astute-I’m sure you have been well trained?
        As I’ve been telling friends and my Wife,if you observe someone displaying “strange”body language or similar traits one of three things is going on:1-criminal.2mental health issues.or (most importantly!)3.They are trained(by your ex. or someone similar?),in my
        parlance “They are at IT”!!!!
        On another note I have a very dear friend who is about to travel to Namibia,W.Africa with three females(all aged late 50’s),four of the party are of Indian ethnic background and the other is WTF aged 62.They are all very well traveled however any advice from yourself would be greatly appreciated.
        By the way they may be well traveled however they have by no means our SA.vERY NICE TO TALK AT LAST-LOVE TOMMY27

      • Hi John(AGAIN!)
        Thanks again for the reply.I sent you a reply several minutes ago but it has not displayed-
        RE:Yourself/Travel and generally being in this world aware and ADROIT(see Def.8+ Websters!!)
        Also mentioned friends travel to Namibia.W.Africa in the coming weeks,any insight/helpful info would be greatly appreciated by all(1IM+1WTF+2IF)AVERAGE AGE LATE 50″S ETC(SEE PREVIOUS MESSAGE?).
        By the way what were our friends doing in Haiti last week??? “WONGA-2”???

        Take great care,talk soon.

        LOVE TOMMY27

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