5 Bizarre Factors That Secretly Make Criminals Target You

Crime is everywhere, and all of us are just victims waiting to happen. Especially you. Yes, you: You've just got a face that formally requests punching. And until RoboCop technology advances significantly, you'll have to either accept your role as the underworld's punching bag, or try some of these handy criminal deterrents ...

#5. Whether or Not You Have a Baby Picture in Your Wallet

Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

Losing your wallet is like dropping your ice cream cone for adults. And depending on the location of the loss, you might have as little as a one-in-five shot at getting your wallet back. And if you do, don't expect your cash or credit cards to be part of the exchange. Once you've called the bank and made peace with the loss of your sandwich punch card (one goddamn hole away from a free footlong), there's not much left to do. You could cling to the slim hope that whoever has your wallet is sympathetic to your plight, but people who swipe wallets aren't generally considered "super chill dudes," so this isn't likely to happen. Your ice cream belongs to the ground now, and you just need to deal with it.

Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"I hope you're lactose intolerant, motherfucker."

Well, unless you remembered to commemorate your little bundle of joy in your wallet. Or somebody else's bundle of joy. Really, any picture of any baby will do. Because as long as there's a baby picture in your wallet, you have much better odds of getting it back. (Note: We know how your brain works, and we are not advocating temporary baby theft -- just grab a stock photo off the Gerber website, friend.)

In an effort to see where common criminals draw the morality line, a group of researchers dumped 240 wallets in random locations and tracked which ones came home. Some of these wallets were equipped with a charity donation card, while others were stuffed with pictures of babies, puppies, families, or elderly couples. Some contained absolutely nothing aside from sweet, anonymous cash.

Adam Gault/Digital Vision/Getty Images
It might help if Jackson looked a little cuter on the $20.

Only 15 percent of wallets containing nothing but money showed back up, while a mere 20 percent of those with charity cards did so. Photos of the elderly only returned 28 percent of the wallets, no matter how hard grandpa brought his selfie game. Wallets with baby pictures, on the other hand, were returned at an incredible rate of 88 percent. Even adorable puppies (53 percent) didn't come close. Clearly, realizing that the welfare of a small human is on the line flips the Empathy Switch in pretty much everybody, even wallet thieves. Sure, criminals are jerks, but they're not monsters: They see a baby picture in that lost wallet and they realize they'd be stealing from a young parent who probably needs the cash, or at least an infant who's really got his shit together.

Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Don't be too impressed; no matter how sound his 401(k) is, you're still the one with dry underwear.

#4. Whether or Not You Have a Stupid "Rob Me" Walk

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Muggers don't pick their victims at random. And while you might assume they take mostly things like size, age, gender, and general hygiene (or lack of it) into consideration, there's another measure of a mark that's far stranger: It's all in how you walk.

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Case in point: Infants taking their first steps make excellent theft targets.

A group of researchers discovered this by secretly filming three days' worth of people walking through a high-risk neighborhood. They then showed their creepy stalker tapes to a group of prisoners, and asked them who looked like the easiest targets for crime. After the cons made their selections, researchers studied the tapes again, breaking down each person's movement style through 21 different categories. By and large, non-victims walked with medium strides, moved their body contra-laterally, and swung their feet instead of lifting them. In other words, "normal" walking. Anybody with a shuffling, nervous, uncertain, skipping, backwards, or otherwise "weird" gait was mugger bait.

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
Rookie mistake. No skipping adult has any money in the first place.

So there you go: Just walk totally normally and you'll be fine. No, normally. That's ... not how you usually walk, right? Well, now you're thinking about how you walk -- don't do that. Oh God, so many muggers are coming for you right now. For the love of God, get those knees up!

#3. Whether or Not You Pay Inside at the Gas Station

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The best thing to happen to gas stations are those little card readers at the pumps. You never have to go inside again, unless you're jonesing for an almost certainly poisoned burrito or an even more toxic bathroom stop. Gas folk aren't bad folk, per se; they're just not your folk. Trust us: The gas jockey is four deep into a six pack of PBR and wants to see you about as much as you want to see him. Everybody wants you to stay outside, but you need to go in. Because those convenient card readers are rip-offs waiting to happen.

Mystid, via Wikipedia
Ditto the Scratch-N-Win cards, if you decide to get adventurous inside.

It's called skimming, and it's one of the simplest forms of theft out there. Because U.S. credit card technology hasn't been updated since the 1970s, and because banks would rather lose a lot of your money than spend a little of theirs updating the system, it's frightfully easy for criminals to steal data from unsuspecting consumers who swipe their magnetic strip-equipped cards. It's all thanks to a tiny little computer chip slipped behind the pump's card slot.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office
In an age of smartphones, the ATM hack in Terminator 2 somehow still gets the job done.

Skimming is a big deal as of late -- it's on the rise in 20 U.S. states, and roughly a third of all Americans report being victims. These operations can sometimes net the criminal hundreds of thousands of dollars; on rare occasions, even millions. Short of breaking open every pump to check for skimmers (generally frowned upon by the gas folk, who have a litany of hexes and curses to inflict should you incur their folksy wrath), the best way to avoid being defrauded at the pump is to just not pay there.

Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Maybe all the aggressive panhandlers should be a clue to not flash the wad.

But if you glance inside and it looks like the clerk really doesn't want to put down that Palahniuk novel, you can use a credit card at the pump (or charge your debit as a credit) -- that way, at least the skimmers won't pull your PIN number, and you stand some sort of chance of recouping any losses from the credit card company. Also, use the pumps closest to the store if possible, since most crooks tend to target the pumps farthest from the clerks. After all, they don't want to risk the curse of the gas folk either.

You know what? We may be thinking of gypsies.

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