Shoulder-surfers and pseudo-cops in Sweden

A shoulder-surfer in Stockholm gets seniors' PIN, then steals their ATM card.
A shoulder-surfer in Stockholm gets seniors' PIN, then steals their ATM card.

I want to wail even in Sweden, because the country has long been perceived as enjoying a relatively low crime rate. And it did. But not any more.

The day I arrived in Stockholm, the paper featured a spread on thieves lurking at ATMs who preyed on the elderly. The scam stars a shoulder-surfer lying in wait for seniors to come use a cash machine. He watches them enter their PINs, then tricks them into allowing their bank card to be physically stolen in one way or another. The thief may ask to change a ten crown note, or may meet the mark at the parking meter and ask for a small coin. Anything to get the mark’s wallet out.

One wallet, many hands.
One wallet, many hands.

Then what? “Magic arts,” one victim said. “Finger magic,” said the police. Hard to believe that a bank card can be stolen from a victim’s wallet right under his nose. Yet, Bob and I recognize the trick we call the “flower gift lift,” as practiced by women in Palma de Mallorca (and I’m sure other places, too). It’s forceful, brazen, devious, and it works. I’ve written about that here.

The Stockholm shoulder-surfer was part of an international gang from Romania. He and one other were sentenced to a few years in prison. Police say they’ve operated all over Sweden, targeting the elderly and handicapped. ATM surveillance photos show victims in wheelchairs and using walkers.

At around the same time. a community newspaper warned of “false policemen” also targeting seniors at ATMs. The thieves convinced the seniors that they needed their bank cards and PINs in order to control illegal withdrawals. Police report additional ploys: door-to-door police impostors warn of burglaries in the neighborhood and want to photograph jewelry and valuables. Whatever the ploy, the thief gets in—cash and valuables go out.

Graph from
Graph from

As I was writing this, the evening news came on. Seems some scammers are knocking on seniors’ doors to give them tips about H1N1. Rather, one scammer knocks and talks. While the senior is occupied, the other slips in and robs the resident.

Meanwhile, last month, police saw for the first time credit cards being skimmed at gas pumps. “So far police have no suspects and haven’t been able to determine how the skimming operation has been carried out.” I have advised them!

Skimmers have been found attached to ATMs at Ikea and a Stockholm Toys R Us store. There was a home invasion in the sleepy suburb where my family lives.
What has Sweden come to?

© Copyright 2008-2009 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

More from Bambi Vincent

Bob Arno and Bambi in a den of thieves—16

Anticipation. Frank has RSVPed by email, with enthusiasm. But what about the...
Read More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *