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9 Levels of Pickpocketing: Easy to Complex

Attenzione, pickpockets! Magician Ben Seidman demonstrates and explains pickpocketing techniques in 9 levels of difficulty, from the easiest to most complex. From a traditional outside jacket pocket snatch to stealing someone's neck tie in broad daylight, this sleight-of-hand expert shows us how master pickpockets execute petty theft. Director: Maya Dangerfield Director of Photography: Dominik Czaczyk Editor: Jordan Calig Expert: Ben Seidman Creative Producer: Katherine Wzorek Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi Associate Producer: Kameryn Hamilton Production Manager: Peter Brunette Production & Equipment Manager: Kevin Balash Production Coordinator: Kariesha Kidd Camera Operator: Josh Andersen; Omar Elgohary Sound Mixer: Kari Barber Production Assistant: Fernando Barajas; Brock Spitaels Hair & Make-Up: Vanessa Renee Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen Additional Editor: Jason Malazia Assistant Editor: Justin Symonds

Released on 10/30/2023


My name is Ben Seidman

and today I've been challenged to break down pick pocketing

in nine levels of complexity.

[upbeat jazz music]

There are two types of pick pocketing.

The criminally invasive type that is devastating

and the fun theatrical pick pocketing.

I am, of course the latter option

because if I was actually stealing things on the street,

I wouldn't say it on camera.

As a disclaimer, this is my interpretation of the challenge.

Level one, the table steal.

Hey, what's your name?

I'm Erica.

Hey Erica, Ben.

Nice to meet you.

I'm just with production.

Did they have you sign a release already?


No, can you, is that okay if we have you sign it?

We're we're gonna start filming in just a second.

You can look at it.

You don't have to sign it now.

Just give it a quick look through if you want.



Level one is all about simply hiding the steal.

A thief will typically use an object as cover.

This is called shade.

The mark is the person who is about to be stolen from,

otherwise known as the chump.

So in this case, I'm using the release as shade

on the clipboard.

So she looked at the release and the moment she looked up

at me, using the clipboard as cover,

I just picked the phone up.

At that moment too, I wanted her to maintain eye contact

with me so I got a little closer to her visual space.

At that point, my hand went south with her phone

and I pocketed it.

This is a common steal used by criminals on the street

because it is by far the easiest to execute.

It requires almost no technical skill

but it does rely on distraction and some choreography.

Hey, Erica?


To, with all the talent, anyone who's appearing

in this video, we're doing a quick selfie, so smile.

Awesome, cool.

And do you want a copy of this photo?



Why not.

Well, you have one.

This is your phone.

Oh, yeah, it is.

Yeah, that's yours.

You can have that back.

Thank you.

Level two, outside breast pocket.

Hey, how's it going?

I'm Ben.

Hey Ben, I'm Sam.

Sam, nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Thank you for being here.

You don't know what we're doing yet?


Not yet.

But I want you to take this index card with your left hand.


And the pen in your right hand.

Oh, can you grab that?

Yeah, yeah.


I'm defining complexity in these levels based

on how difficult the steals are to accomplish

both physically, but also based on the misdirection

that I have to use to direct people's attention

away from the steals.

Level two is all about hiding the motion of the steal.

This is also the easiest of any of the pocket steals

because the shade and the movement is built directly

into the moment.

I'm letting the mark use his own kinetic energy

to basically do the steal for me.

So, I'm gonna have you get ready to write something down.

All right.

So first of all, Sam, I want you to write down

whether or not you like my new pair of sunglasses.

Oh my, oh my gosh.

Level three, the ID badge steal.

What's your name?


Alex, Ben, nice to meet you.

Hi Ben.

I suppose, I guess I could have just looked down

and seen what your name was.

You know, they say that a good way

to remember people's names besides reading it,

is to like make eye contact and then say it out loud.

For level three, my main goal is to hide my intent.

As I'm meeting the participants, I'm lying to some of them

about who I am and what this whole video is for.

When I steal badges, I like to do it in two steps.

Typically, you don't want heat

on the item that you're stealing, but in this case

calling attention to it helps hide the first move.

We call this painting it red.

If you can't hide something, make it more obvious.

The release of the badge can sometimes be audible

so I snap my fingers in the context of the script,

that helps hide the sound.

I'm putting the ID badge steal at level three

because it's closer to the natural eye line

of the spectator.

It also requires openly touching the item that I'm stealing.

If I don't execute the steal perfectly,

the mark could feel the tug of the band around their neck

or hear the sound of the badge detaching.

There's a lot of trip wires with this one

but another good way to remember someone's name is

to have it written down somewhere, which is why I have this.

That's yours.

Did you feel me take it?

No, you are, you're good.

Level four, outside jacket pocket.

Shelby, I'm Ben.

Hi, Ben, nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Thank you so much for coming and being a part of this.

I have a deck of cards for you actually.


I'm going to do a magic trick.

Amazing, cool.

Okay, tell me out of curiosity, you can just relax.

Do you have inside jacket pockets in this jacket?

No, I don't think so.

You don't?

Okay, that's fine.

Don't worry about that.

In that case, I'll have you just put these

in your back pocket.


[Director] And then for the shot, can we get you guys

to face our camera down there?

And you want us like close together like this?

[Director] As close as you can get.

Okay, perfect.

That's great.

Pretty close.

That's great.

Level four is all about hiding the sensation of the steal.

Pickpockets on the street choose locations to work

where people are naturally shoved together.

So the environment actually provides

the intent of the steal.

On stage, I have to figure out if someone actually

has something in his pocket.

So I use a technique known as fanning

and that's just you feeling to see if they have anything

in their pocket.

I actually stole this woman's wallet

and then replaced it back in her pocket

because I didn't wanna blow my cover.

And I wanted to show you a second way to execute this steal.

I might open somebody's jacket to indicate to something.

This provides shade.

It also keeps the jacket farther away from their body

which means that the dip is much harder to feel.

The second method is much closer to what you might see

a pickpocket do on the street with people crowded together.

I used the jacket as shade

and then I just very carefully dipped in

so I could make the steal without her knowing.

So Shelby, by the way, I have a confession to make.


I know that the camera guys were positioning us

next to each other.

You're actually not here to see a magic trick at all.


This entire video has been about pick pocketing.


And tell me, Shelby, does this wallet look like yours?

Amazing, amazing.

Are we still rolling on that?

Okay, good.

Level five, stealing a smartwatch.

So Amber, tell me, are you familiar with tarot cards?


But have you ever had your tarot red?



Okay, have you ever had your palm read?

No. I don't really, maybe once

Hold onto those.

I'm gonna say, okay, so I'm not an expert on this

but we are, we're filming a thing about reading people.

That's your lifeline right there.

I think that's your loveline.

I'm not good at this stuff as you may see, but yeah,

I think we can do this.

Can I have you stand up for me actually?


Will you just watch your step right over there?

Yeah, take one step this way.

Watches are rarely stolen outside

of a performance situation, but they're very, very effective

when performing in front of an audience.

The physical steal is only part of the picture.

In every case, I have to manage the broad attentional focus

of the person I'm performing for.

I begin by establishing the context of the situation

and building rapport and trust.

I also am conditioning the spectator to my touch.

For example, I'm just putting this silver dollar in my hand.

That's like the first time that I touch her.

Then I touch her again.

Same thing happens.

So in her mind, she gets comfortable with that touch.

And so when I do the sneaky thing,

she has gotten comfortable with the touch.

So, as I bring her to her feet,

I slip my thumb in between the two parts of the watchband

and I separate the band from the pin.

Once I do that, I slide the watch off of her wrist.

Now there are a lot of trip wires here.

The part of the watch that moves the most

is actually the part that's sitting up against her skin.

So, I have to be mindful that that rubber dragging

on her skin isn't something that she feels.

Also, once I open the band, the sides of the watch

could hit her arm or her body as I go south with the watch.

That's why I'm using the bigger motion of her standing up

and me moving her to cover the smaller motion

of me stealing the watch.

Now I'm using a combination of everything we've learned

from all of the previous levels.

I'm hiding the steal, I'm hiding the motion,

I'm hiding the intent, and I'm also hiding the sensation.

Face the camera, that's perfect.

And then I'm gonna ask you a couple quick questions.


Starting with, does this watch look familiar?

[laughing] That was on my wrist

Level six, the traditional watch steal.

Lauren, I am a magician

and I'm gonna play a game with you-


Where you get a chance to win some money.

How does that sound?

Yeah, good for me.

So I have a hundred and a $2 bill.

You get the $2 bill, and I want you to take it and fold it

in a half like that.


And then fold it in a half again.

And then one more time into a square.


Now if you wouldn't mind, hold out your hand.


I want you to hold onto both of those bills

but turn your hand palm down like that.

That's perfect.

Now I can't take those out without you feeling me do it.

So I'm just gonna openly go in and take one of them out.


And in this case, oh, bummer, in this case, I got the two.

But do me a favor with your right hand hold onto my wrist

and hold like tightly, like actually hold tightly.


Watch that two, because it changes.

What the, okay.

To the hundred?

That's so awesome.

Look in your hand.

Dang, dude, I wanted that hundred.

Like any steal, I have to manipulate

the broad attentional focus of the subject.

Broad distractions don't really work here

because the subject could look back

and catch me at any time.

Now, there are different ways

to manipulate someone's attention.

You can overwhelm someone's attention,

you could split someone's attention, and then, of course,

drawing someone's attention to one specific thing.

Here I'm using a combination of all of these techniques.

I give the mark two different bills to focus on.

Now I've justified why I am touching her.

She's conditioned to my touch

and I'm splitting her attention

between two different things.

As I hold her wrist, I execute the first part of the steal,

bringing the tail end of the watch out

from under the two loops.

Next, the attention splitting begins.

I remove one of the two bills and ask her to look at it.

To do this, I illustrate by grabbing her other wrist.

And at that moment, I'm able to actually pull back

on the band, kick the pin free, move the tail of the watch

to a diagonal so it doesn't reengage in a second hole.

And then the final part of the steal happens

at the same time as the visual special effect moment happens

where the two bills magically change places.

But the timing has to be exactly perfect.

The moment that the bills switch places,

all of the attention shoots back to her other hand.

It's possible for the steal to take place entirely

using the thumb with the person's wrist face up.

Although this steal is physically easier,

the mark could theoretically look down at any point

which makes it more challenging in that way.

So the timing here has to be perfect

and the execution surgical.

But I do wanna give you a gift.

Here's your gift, it is a watch.

Does it look familiar?

Dude, no way, dude.

Oh my God.

You can have that back.

Thank you.

Level seven, the pants pocket steal.

What's your name?

I'm John.

John, nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you so much for having me.

Of course, I'm gonna have you stand maybe one quick.

No, no, you were good over there.

Just one little step back.

That's perfect, beautiful.

Now, John, this is a about pick pocketing.


And pick pockets, when they're looking for things

to steal, they can either see where they're in a pocket

or they can fan you, which is like kind of bumping up

against you and feeling where things are.

For example, I now know that you have something

in this pocket.


Is that correct?

I think it's a wallet.

That's probably it, yes.

Is that a wallet?

That is a wallet.

That you have it here?


Awesome okay, so you've got the wallet there

and then down over here in that pocket.

What is that?

Is that your phone?

That would be the phone, yes.

See, there you go, that's the interesting thing.

Most people, what they'll do is they'll have the phone

in one of the pants pockets.


But then if you have the phone down here,

the wallet is always up here.

That's always what happens.


I'm putting the pants pocket steal at level seven

for a variety of reasons.

First of all, the steal is happening next

to a very sensitive area of the body.

Pick pocketing someone in skinny jeans is harder

because it's easier for them to feel it.

This involves pinching the pocket

which moves the wallet up for a later steal.

All criminal steals are heavily environmental

and different techniques are used in different places.

For one thing, wallet steals from pants pockets often happen

from the back pocket, otherwise known as the prat.

A method frequently used for the steal

is called tapping the poke.

In this case, the wallet is actually pressed up

from the bottom so that it sticks out of the pocket.

Stall hopping is a term for a pickpocket stealing

someone's wallet while they're sitting on the toilet.

We decided that we're not gonna show you footage of that one

for obvious reasons, and if you do wanna see footage

of that one, you should look inward.

John, I really appreciate you coming here

and letting me explain what fanning means.

But before I go, I got a call on my phone

but this dog looks familiar.

How did you do that?

Is that your phone?

That's very much my phone.

Yeah, you can have that back.

Thank you.

You didn't feel me taking it?

I did not feel you take it.

That's a good sign.

By the way, now is a good time to acknowledge the fact

that our camera operators and director of photography

are actually very, very good and talented.

Hey, Dom?

[Dom] Yeah.

Is this your credit card?

[Dom] Oh, geez.

Oh God.

Is this yours?

Yeah, I think so.

Yeah, sorry, I took that during lunch.

Level eight, the inside jacket pocket.

I put the inside jacket pocket at level eight

because of the complexity of the moves,

the proximity to the subject's chest,

and the level of invasiveness and physical contact

that I have to make with the mark when I do the steal.

Almost no one carries big billfold wallets

like this anymore, which is a huge bummer

because they were really easy to steal.

Before I begin, I have to determine if someone has something

in this pocket known as the pit.

The first thing I always do is look for the silhouette

of an item in the jacket, but this doesn't necessarily work,

especially if they're wearing a really heavyweight jacket.

In that case, I move on to my other line of defense,

which is fanning.

Well, our brains are constantly getting bombarded

by tons and tons of different signals.

Most people, what they'll do is they'll have the phone

in one of the pants pockets

but then if you have the phone down here

the wallet is always up here.

But evolution has cut off some portion of those signals

as a survival mechanism.

If we registered all of these things,

we wouldn't be able to function at all.

By adding extra signals and overloading the mark

with sensations and thoughts,

they have so much data to process that they actually miss

the most important part and the steal flies under the radar.

I open the jacket and top the poke

as I gesture towards the wallet.

I execute the dip using the jacket as shade

and direct his attention to something else.

You've gotten this far in the video,

which means that you know what all of that means.

I mean, how cool is that?

John, also, one more thing in that wallet that you had

in your upper pocket.

Come on.

There you go, buddy.

The final level, stealing someone's neck tie.

The reason you're here, we're shooting this project

about men's fashion, which is why we asked you to dress

up ahead of time and you did not disappoint.

Thank you.

This is fantastic.

I love the look of everything.

Have you, you've worn the suit before, right?

Yeah, I've broken it in.

Even with a tie as well.


Yeah, it looks really nice.

Let's have you take one quick step back, just a small one.

Split the difference right there.

That's perfect.

Okay, great.

The nice thing about this fabric is that it looks like

it doesn't hold wrinkles very much.

No, it doesn't.

Yeah, see, that's the thing about when you get

get those hybrids is that you can, the fabric,

you can actually, believe it or not, put it in a suitcase

and it still looks great.

Right, right.

And if you look over on this side,

you have a watch on this side, right?

I do, yeah.

Okay and it matches your outfit, you feel like.

Yeah, I feel like it looks.

Beautiful, I'm gonna have you turn around

so we can see the full profile.

Yep, looks very, very nice, that's great.

And then lastly, but not leastly, I want to comment

on the fact that you've got a bunch of pockets,

like down here you have a pocket.


That looks very nice.

And then of course, over here you have a pocket.

That's the pants pocket.

You can put a lot of different things over here, right?

Sure, yeah.

And then over there, you've got another one.

So you look fantastic, man.

Thank you so much.

Yeah, it's a great quality suit.

I saved the best for last.

This is my favorite steal

because it seems completely insane.

First, travel back to the 1950s when people wore ties.

That's actually the hardest part about the steal

is finding someone who's wearing a tie.

I suggest finding a wealthy oil mogul.

Step one is to determine how the knot is tied.

It could be a simple knot, a four in hand, a Windsor,

half Windsor, et cetera.

I can usually figure out what type of knot it is

by looking at it.

This also tells me which side of his body

I'm going to stand on.

So, you have to also be able to execute the steal

both right and left-handed.

First, I have to get my thumb and first finger

under his collar, but above his jacket.

I also have to do this as I'm touching him

and sort of moving him around.

I move him into place as I gesture to his neck tie

and then I start sliding the tie out of the knot.

Now, depending on how tight the knot is going to be

is going to determine how hard I'm going to have to pull.

Really tight knots are harder to steal, but either way,

I slowly begin to pull pieces of that tail out of the knot.

You'll notice that I put my hand on his back.

I move him into position.

I'm talking to him the entire time, constantly splitting

his attention and referencing different things

about the clothing that he's wearing.

Once I clear the small end of the tie out of the knot,

I have to move the large end of the tie off

to his other shoulder.

So I gesture to his other side as I grab the tie

and flip it to the back.

At this point on stage, I like to bring the person around

in a circle, ask them to do a 360

because he has no idea what's going on.

But to the audience, this is hilarious.

Next, all I have to do is pull it out of his collar

and I am good to go.

I started fanning this guy and immediately saw and felt

that he had other things in his pockets.

And since this was the last level, I could not help myself.

And I took everything that I could.

I have been taking your things, including-


Is this your beard comb?

Is that what that is?

That is what.

Yeah and this is, I believe that is your-

Oh, no way.



What else, oh yeah.

And then your tie.

Oh my God.

So you can put that.

Oh yeah, and I've got one more thing.

Your car keys.

Do you drive a Toyota.

Are these yours?

Those are, yeah.

That's yours.

Okay and then lastly, but not leastly, your phone.

Is this your phone?

That is, that's not my phone, no.

Whose phone did I take?

[upbeat music]

Every steal is different based on the person,

what they're wearing, who they are,

what the context is, what the environment is.

As much as I'd like to call myself

a master of these techniques,

I still feel very much like I'm learning.

I hope after watching this video,

you have a greater understanding

for the world of pick pocketing.

Thanks for watching.

[upbeat music]