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 ...
Whether or Not You Have a Baby Picture in Your Wallet
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.
"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.
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.
Don't be too impressed; no matter how sound his 401(k) is, you're still the one with dry underwear.
Whether or Not You Have a Stupid "Rob Me" Walk
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.
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.
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!
Whether or Not You Pay Inside at the Gas Station
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether You Ask One Person for Help or Yell to the Crowd
An individual person can be pretty dang cool. Take Ron Perlman for example -- pretty cool dude, and almost certainly just one guy, not a small group of people standing on each other's shoulders beneath a trenchcoat.
"Del Toro originally tried that shit for Hellboy. Didn't work."
On the other hand, people in general are careless, lazy, and selfish. There's no better indication of this than the Bystander Effect, which we've talked about before. Basically, someone is more likely to help you if they're the only other person around. If they're in a crowd, everyone assumes that someone else will step up, completely oblivious to the fact that, usually, nobody does.
"He's fine. My McFlurry is melting."
So let's say you're being harassed or mugged, and there are people all around you. Yelling at the top of your lungs, screaming for anybody to help is, unfortunately, about as effective as nailing a tablecloth over Old Faithful. If you don't want to be savagely beaten in a crowded Cheesecake Factory, you need to get personal. Specify your request as much as possible, and don't be afraid to make eye contact when doing so. Who exactly do you want to help you? The waiter? The pudgy guy with the dyed soulpatch? That lady that looks like late '80s-era Prince? What exactly is happening to you? Are you being savagely punched in the arms or flicked in the ears -- holy shit, is somebody trying to steal your cheesecake?! What exactly can people do to help you? Feel free to request specifics -- take down information, call the police, execute a flying spin-kick to the perpetrator's throat (thanks,'80s Prince Lady!). Providing as much detail as you can will help eliminate the Bystander Effect, and make it much more likely that people will respond to your dire plight with actual assistance instead of awkward stares and Facebook status updates.
Whether or Not You Drive a Weird-Colored Car
Car theft sucks, but so does car theft prevention. More than 95 percent of car alarms are completely false, triggered by some jerk's loud exhaust, the rumble of a passing truck, or the faint dissatisfaction of a nearby squirrel, depending on the sensitivity of the alarm. Does anybody hear a car alarm anymore and actually go check to make sure the car's not being stolen? There has to be a more efficient theft prevention method, right?
"It protects my picnic baskets, it'll protect my ride."
There sure is, and it starts at the dealership. Do your research, take your test drive, decide on your ideal automobile, and then ask the dealer for the stupidest, ugliest clown-car paint job he's got. Thieves hate those damn things.
"That's close, but is there a way we could paint all the glass too?"
A study of cars sold in the Netherlands showed that the dominant automobile colors since 1990 have been gray, black, and blue. By 2005, those three colors comprised over 80 percent of sales. Not coincidentally, those colors are also 40 percent more likely to be stolen. Sure, some of that is just correlation, not causation -- if most cars are gray, black, and blue, most stolen cars will be gray, black, and blue. But it goes beyond that: Car thieves, like most thieves, are opportunistic. They want to find the easiest car to steal that will net them the most money when they offload it. If they jack a bright purple and neon green Taurus, they're going to have to repaint it before anybody wants the damn thing (also, it'll be quite a bit more noticeable when the cops are looking for it). Why not just walk two blocks down and steal the gray Taurus there? It'll blend in far easier, get them more money, and they won't have to roll around town in a car that looks like the Predator lost a fight with Grimace.
"Don't let the smile fool you. That purple buttplug fights dirty."
So swallow your pride and get yourself an ugly orange, purple, or yellow whip. But if you want the utmost in security, go pink. Cars clad in Barbie's favorite hue are almost never stolen, because nobody wants to buy the damn things as-is, and paint jobs take time and money. Plus the other car thieves will totally make fun of them if they ever see them driving it. Car thieves are a notoriously insecure clique.
For more criminal activity, check out 25 Movie Heroes You Didn't Know Were Breaking the Law.
Related Reading: The dumbest criminals get themselves caught...usually by butt dialing. It's also weirdly common for thieves to upload selfies with stolen phones. If you want to see just how dumb crime can get, check out these idiots.