Bob and I visited the Barcelona police station for information and found the usual line of victims reporting thefts. I asked a young Norwegian couple what had happened to them.
They’d been outside Los Caracoles, a popular restaurant, after dinner (and yes, drinks). He had held up his iPhone and taken a few photos.
“They must have targeted me,” the man said, “because as soon as I put my phone in my pocket, a guy bumped into me. The phone was gone in one second and so was the thief.”
“From those tight jeans?” I asked him.
“Yes, from this front pocket.”
“And the iPhone had a rubbery case. It doesn’t slide easily,” his wife/girlfriend said. “The phone will be erased after ten wrong passwords are entered, so I’m not worried about the information on it. I’m most upset about losing the photos of our whole trip.”
Pretty typical, so far. But here’s what amazed me (and I was right there!). The Barcelona police officer behind the counter refused to take the victims’ report! That’s right—refused to file a report! Because the victims could not provide the serial number of the stolen iPhone, they were turned away. The phone was stolen! Who carries around a note with serial numbers?
In a non-ridiculous world, the Barcelona cop would have said “I’ll take your report, but you’ll have to call in or email your serial number before I file it.”
Or perhaps, “I can’t file a report without your serial number, but you can file one online here once you obtain it.” Did the Barcelona policeman tell the polite victims that it was even possible to report theft online? No, he did not. I told the victims and provided the link. (More ridiculousness: victims who file online must still visit a Barcelona police station within 72 hours of filing in order to sign the report. So if it’s your last day, like the Norwegians, you’re cooked.)
[5/15/17 edit: In the comments below, Jon pointed out that for a stolen iPhone, “you can log onto http://appleid.apple.com, where you can view all devices linked to your Apple account as well as their IMEI and serial numbers.” Great suggestion, though this only works for devices that are logged into your Apple account.]
Next in line at the police station was a woman whose iPhone was stolen off a cafe table. The technique was an improvement on The Pickpocket’s Postcard Trick about which, coincidentally, I just posted. She was at her hotel’s restaurant, using the hotel’s wifi. She, too, was unceremoniously turned away from filing a police report because she did not have her phone’s serial number.
Strangely enough, we watched a few thieves attempt this technique just a few hours later. We were just leaving after a rest and coffee at a cafe on La Rambla. Bob spotted the thieves moments before they struck. I filmed them. They will be my next post.
Another couple I surveyed in the police station: stolen iPhone. As predicted in Summer Scams to Avoid, smart phones are the target of choice this summer. (Not that a wallet is out of danger.)
Three facts that surprise a pair of veteran thiefhunters:
1. A pickpocket stole from the tight front pocket of a man’s jeans (I saw the jeans).
2. Barcelona police refuse to file theft reports if the victims lack the stolen item’s serial number! (Stat-tampering.)
3. Barcelona police do not volunteer to victims that it is possible to file theft reports online.
I think there’s going to be more on this issue…