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The real Hustle – The Laptop Theft Scam

Posted by Awareness

Definition: The Laptop Scam involves some sophisticated sleight-of-hand and choreography on the part of the scammers. Unlike other hustles that rely on the mark’s gullibility, this feat of legerdemain magically makes your valuable computer disappear into thin air.

The Mark: A typical business traveler, pre-occupied with his work and his flight. He’s traveling with his laptop – but unfortunately, he’s also traveling with a false sense of airport security.

The Scam: Often worth more than money, the value of information stored on your computer’s hard drive may be incalculable. Though we all take great pains to insure that proper back-ups are done and kept up-to-date, experience tells us that this is not always the case. For this reason, the Lap-Top Scam can teach us one of the more painful lessons we learn in life – in many ways more wrenching than the loss of mere money, or other personal property.

The first thing our scammers do is set up a “ringer” – an ordinary, common, laptop case that is filled with worthless material that matches the weight of a real laptop computer. Paul and Alex are our two hustlers today, and Paul, who is dressed as a businessman, will be carrying no luggage. He will, however, be carrying enough metal to be sure to set off the metal detectors near the x-ray machine; you’ll see the importance of this later. Alex, dressed more casually, will be the one who carries the ringer, and who will ultimately purloin the mark’s machine.

With the phony in hand, it’s off to the airport for our pair, where they will carefully scout out an unsuspecting business traveler; one who is carrying a laptop in a case just like the one they are using for the scam. When the mark is identified, he is quietly followed as he approaches the security checkpoint, which is where the sting begins. Paul positions himself directly in front of the mark, and Alex is directly in front of Paul.

Alex, carrying a topcoat and the fake laptop, approaches the x-ray machine first – placing these items on the conveyor belt. He confidently steps into the metal detecting station, passes through easily, and walks back to the conveyor belt, casually beginning to collect his belongings. Picking up and fussing with the coat first, he is effectively shielding the far end of the conveyor belt from the view of those at the beginning, including the mark.

Paul, in the meantime, with no luggage or other articles to be x-rayed, steps through the metal detector. As we know, he is carrying more than enough innocent metal items to set of the alarm, which delays the movement of the queue whilst he is examined and wanded for contraband or weapons. The primary purpose of this charade is to stop the movement of the mark through the system – even though the mark has already placed his laptop onto the conveyor.

Now the carefully orchestrated scam is in full motion. The mark’s laptop is moving through the x-ray equipment, being conveyed inexorably towards the scammer Alex. Of course, Alex is busily straightening out his topcoat and reaching for his laptop, only it is not his “ringer” laptop that he grabs, but laptop of the poor mark, who is waiting patiently for partner-in-crime Paul to be cleared through the metal detector. By the time this happens, Alex has hurried away, coat and laptop in hand, to catch his flight. In reality, of course, the only thing he’ll be catching is a taxicab with Paul – back to their lair with the ill-gotten loot.

And what of our unsuspecting mark? Well, the last we see of him, he is heading purposefully to his gate, tightly clutching the worthless ringer, and soon to discover that he’s been the victim of a real hustle.

The Lesson Learned: It’s so simple, and you’ve known it all your life. Never, no matter what the circumstances, let your valuables out of your sight in a public place. And the more valuable your property, the more diligent you must be. Had the mark been paying attention and even remotely sensed that anything was amiss, he could have called out to security and stopped the scam in its tracks. But he let his guard down, and the airport guards proved to be no substitute.

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