Subliminal Hacking
The Art and Science of Social Engineering



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October 30, 2012

Pickpocket Training … The Professional Opportunist Way!

So the weekend just gone (28th October 2012) I had the pleasure of attending James Brown’s P.O.W.A Pick Pocket Seminar in Stoke on Trent. OK, so that is a partial lie, Stoke on Trent is abit of a dismal place (sorry if you live there) but the Pickpocket training was awesome.

You may be thinking to yourself, why would you want to attend such a course in the first place. So first of all let me clarify my interest. I don’t know when I first found out about the concept of a pickpocket, but like magic it seemed interesting to me as to how someone could steal something like a wallet that is in contact with someones body without them feeling it. My approach to things are where possible if I dont understand or believe something I want to try it out, and pickpocketing fell into this category. So I am interested and what to see how its done, I also thing this would be a handy skill to have in the arsenal for the physical onsite SE engagements I work on (approval required of course), and also when I am having fun doing mentalism and hypnosis in a more entertaining context wouldn’t it be awesome to throw that into the mix also? YES is the answer :D

So I signed up for James’s course to learn more, for two reasons I have seen (online) James doing his thing for a while now, and have alot of respect for what and how he does things, and wanted to meet him, and also not many people offer this training within a couple of hours drive of me :)

PickPocketTraining

So somewhere in between 9:30 and 10am the course kicked off. There was about 10 of us in total, pretty much everyone except for me was a professional magician or mentalist, and one guy was also a hypnotist. This was expected as the course is really aimed at the performer / theatrical pick pocketing, but its all the same technically, and James uses his skills to raise awareness with UK Police Authorities also.

The first couple of hours leading up to lunch cover something that is very important, and its not just relative to pickpocketing, but to life and anything you try and undertake. This something was CONFIDENCE. We looked at the dictionary meaning, and the conventional view of what confidence is and the perception of attaining this (think Unicorns), and then the reality of the flaws with the concept of self confidence, and that if you analyse anything enough you will find cracks, and then become focused on them entirely (this is a negative thing). This linked nicely onto your beliefs and feelings in your abilities, and how in reality these feelings are in our body and not our minds, and we have full and total control, and if we want we can take ownership. There was good discussion on this, but the ultimate conclusion was that physical relaxation creates the mental calmness we require to gain the illusive confidence in anything. I really had alot of appreciation for this from my hypnosis training days, and being confident and getting the results, and its true if you are relaxed, you are fluid and things just flow so much better.

Then we broke for lunch, with some wise words from James on going out and breaking our comfort zones, and challenging the norm. I really really like the concept, but I have to say other than being slightly more chatty with the person on the till, I didn’t give out any free hugs, but I guess I did kinda sit at a table with 3 strangers :D.

Next up was the actual doing, the technical steals as it where, getting our Artful dodger fu on the go :D
First off James talked about misdirection and how important this is, if the eyes dont see it the mind doesn’t perceive it, we also spoke about permission and the ethics around pickpocketing, and again about being relaxed and not getting to hung up on the technique and following a script as such, be an Opportunist.

James then gave various demonstrations throughout the rest of the afternoon, demonstrating techniques on steals to the trouser pockets (front and back), jacket pockets (inside, side and lapel) and then onto things like watches, ties, cuff links and belts. We then broke off into rotating pairs to try out what we had learnt.

I will say at this point that I have seen James pickpocketing online before, but in person its something else, like anything watching someone masterful at their art is transfixing. Ravi Mayar also showed up to assist with some of the training, also another nice guy.

So how did the practical go? Well very very well indeed. What was amazing is how easy it is to successfully pick a pocket when you are calm and relaxed. One of my first goes at stealing a wallet and phone from my practice partner was a little tricky with the wallet getting caught on the way out, but I remained calm and I got it, I got the phone really easily. The interesting thing was that he didn’t feel the wallet go at all, but kinda thought the phone was being stolen. For me this was very interesting and a good quick lesson that just because you feel something, doesn’t mean the subject / target does also.

I mostly enjoyed the stealing techniques from trouser pockets and the inside jacket pocket. I also like the tie stealing approach, its very bold, but at the same time remarkably stealthy. The watch stealing deffo requires more practice, I stole a couple but deffo not undetectable, need to work on the finger dexterity for that one. Everything content wise on the course was fantastic and James really is a top bloke, and offered to be contactable if we have any questions / issues in the future that says alot. I would totally recommend this training to anyone with an interest in pick pocketing, and anything James does really. There is a possibility he will be releasing a Pickpocket DVD so that will probably also be a useful resource.

So what am I going to do with this new found skill? Well hopefully perfect practice alot :) I say perfect as James made a great comment that practice makes permanent, only good practice makes perfect. I deffo think I can use these skills to some extent on physical engagement to gain access to mobiles, access cards etc should the situation and circumstances allow, and also when I am out and about having fun with impromptu hypnosis and mentalism tom foolery :D

Sorry for the long post, if you are still here thanks for reading. Feel free to contact me or leave comments if you have questions.

To find out more about James and his Professional Opportunist ways check out his website.

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    About the Author

    Dale Pearson
    has worked in IT since 1998, Infosec since 2004, and studied and performed hypnosis, mentalism etc since 2009. Dale is a full time social engineer and qualified hypnotherapist. He spends a great deal of time researching the various skills and techniques that make up the art and science of Social Engineering.





    1. Josh

      Hello, I really enjoyed reading your article. Although I think stealing off another individual is wrong this would be a great experience to have, so I was wondering how you found out about this corse?

      Thank you for taking the time to type this up


    2. Dale

      James is a fellow hypnotist so I had been aware of much of his work in an entertainment context, and I had heard he was planning on teaching a pickpocket course I kept an eye on his blog and signed up when a nearby course became available.

      Its important to understand, that even though the techniques are pretty much the same, the primary audience for James’s session was for those in the entertainment industry, but like all education the application crosses many areas.


    3. Josh

      That’s awesome, I have a lot of interest in this area but have no clue how to learn about. I’ll look in to making the connections. Thank you for taking the time to reply.



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