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Beware, someone might be picking your pocket

None of us really thinks about pickpockets in this day and time. Those of us who still love Charles Dickens, remember Fagan in "Oliver Twist," who trained little boys to steal from the rich and bring the money home to him. The profession of picking pockets pales in comparison to today's the crimes, which are far more sophisticated and cunning. The old grab-and-run society has now become major corporate American villainy. These giants of international skullduggery, after a two-Martini lunch, go back to the office, sit comfortably at their computers and begin the worldwide swindle. They cleverly beat some other corporate executive out of money that he probably bamboozled. That is the style now: Big guns and clever intellectual crimes are the call of the day or at least that is what we thought.

However, on Jan. 26, in a Piedmont Medical Center elevator, two stalwart citizens were introduced to the revival of pocket picking. It obviously took a pair of trained pickers to pull off this financial caper. However, they had a couple of things going for them. They were in this crime of sleight of hand, dealing with people who never thought anyone of this character would or could ever exist in the York County area of South Carolina.

Their act must have been rehearsed with dedication. Their demeanor in that elevator was not unusual. They did not appear to be offbeat. They were dressed in an ordinary fashion, and their attitude was not anti-social or evil, just plain folks. Their success took them on a shopping spree to Bi-Lo, CVS, Lowe's, Home Depot and Target.

A gentleman and his wife (they prefer that their names not be used, although mostly everyone in Chester County knows the story) got in the elevator, smiled and waited to be delivered to the third floor, where they were going to visit a friend.

The gentleman, whom we shall call Bill, stood in the center of the elevator. There were five other people present, not including his wife, who, for this story, will be named Mary. Bill felt something moving or pushing against his shoe. He stooped, investigated, found nothing unusual as the elevator arrived at their destination. Mary was behind Bill when they exited, and just before she stepped out of the elevator, she saw his comb lying on the floor. She paused and quickly said, "Bill you dropped your comb." Bill automatically reached for his hip pocket as the elevator slid its way to another floor. The wallet and the newly enriched man or men were gone and on to a shopping spree that, before card companies were called and put into action, netted them more than $15,000 worth of goods.

When Bill touched his hip pocket, he knew immediately that the wallet was gone. For years, his comb and wallet held the same place of importance, one always with the other. The money the wallet contained was inconsequential compared to the five credit cards that were in plain sight.

These persons were not only clever at grabbing a wallet, they also knew how to shop, quickly and efficiently. There can be no doubt they had figured time to the second. They knew that when Bill discovered the loss, his first stop would be hospital security and that he would then start calling credit card companies. So, their shopping success really depended how quickly Bill and Mary began to make calls to card companies, banks and the police. The only important mistake the thieves made was to ignore the significance of a little pocket comb. Had it not been for the quick and active eye of Mary, it would have surely been added to the trash at the hospital and the thieves given more time to conduct their business of stealing. After reporting their loss to the hospital security office, Bill and Mary made their way home to begin calling credit card companies and one that offers insurance for the very thing that had just happened to them.

Bill and Mary were assured that the card had been tagged and that none of the charges made by anyone other than themselves would be their responsibility. Then, the tedious calls to the bank began. Of course, along with the cards, the wallet contained a couple of Bill's personal checks with everything the pickers of pockets needed to know: name, address and telephone number.

After talking to someone who works in a bank here in Chester County, I discovered that it is not required to have all of that information printed on your checks. Just make sure you carry the proper identification in another pocket, preferably not the one that is located on the seat of your pants.

When Mary and Bill talked to me, they were quick to say the reason for their interest in the story being told was to simply alert people to the dangers that lurk even in hospitals and elevators. They wanted the story told because of the need for constant vigilance. Those of us who live here are certainly aware that crime of this nature exists, but never in this sweet place.

Now we hear that there have been similar "pickins" in other towns near Rock Hill. So may I suggest that you switch your carrying place for your wallet? Try you front trouser pocket or, better yet, just let the little woman carry all the cash and credit cards. It should have been that way from the very beginning.

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