Bob Arno is a comedy pickpocket and criminologist specializing in global street crime, is the co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling, and was featured in National Geographic’s Pickpocket King documentary. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part one here!]
What We Discuss with Bob Arno:
- How Bob, the son of a judge, got involved in social engineering and pickpocketing for the purpose of entertainment.
- Why pickpockets are commonly targeted by terrorist organizations for radicalization efforts.
- How diversionary crime like pickpocketing has changed just like every other profession during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- How Bob is able to get close to real-life criminal pickpockets and learn their tricks of the trade without winding up in the hospital — or worse.
- The psychology of a pickpocket — what they’re looking for in an ideal victim and what you can do to ensure you’re not that victim.
- And much more…
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Bob Arno can make you laugh, but he isn’t your average comedian. Tickling your funny bone is just a distraction while he steals your watch and wallet — but it’s all for a good cause: education. With sleight-of-hand mastery honed by real-life observation and practice in criminal hotspots around the world, Bob uses his talents to show would-be victims how to avoid being robbed. He’s the co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling, and is featured in Pickpocket King, a National Geographic documentary that shows Bob in action on the streets of Naples, Italy.
In this episode, Bob will teach us how the psychology of pickpocketing actually works; what we can do to avoid being seen as an easy mark; some of the tricks of the trade that he’s learned in the wild, and how we can spot, catch, and protect ourselves against thieves, pickpockets, and scam artists at home or abroad. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part one here!]
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the conversation we had with counterfeiting investigator Kris Buckner? Catch up with episode 308: Kris Buckner | Who Does Counterfeiting Really Hurt? here!
Thanks, Bob Arno!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling by Bambi Vincent and Bob Arno | Amazon
- Bob Arno | Website
- Thiefhunters in Paradise Blog
- Pickpocket King Documentary
- The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne, 1963 | Time
- John Gotti | FBI
Bob Arno | Schooled by the Professor of Pickpocketry Part Two (Episode 531)
Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Hyundai for sponsoring this episode.
[00:00:02] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:06] Bob Arno: When they hold you up against the mall. When they say, "Mother F give me your wallet." You pull up your wallet that you're prepared and you have $30 or $20 that you prepared to give to the guy. So you're coming prepared to lose this in case of a confrontation. As far as pickpocketing, three credit cards, American Express and MasterCard, for example, lock the third card into your safe in the hotel.
[00:00:37] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychology, even the occasional former Jihadi, national security advisor, or Emmy-nominated comedian. Each episode turns our guest wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:01:23] Now, this is part two with Bob Arno, the professional pickpocket. If you haven't heard part one, stop this episode right now, go back and get part one. That's where you're going to want to begin. I'm not going to dilly dally too much here. Let's go here with part two with Bob Arno.
[00:01:39] The cell phone market is crazy. My family, my wife's family, they work in that business. And they'll say something like, "Oh, this month was bad. We paid two million dollars for a batch of phones, and either they never arrived, or half of them arrived or they arrived and they weren't usable or they arrived and the company said these are all stolen and then they sell them to Africa," and it's like, it's just a crazy black market for these things.
[00:02:03] Bob Arno: And you know, is it an intriguing market? How do they all go about it? You know, obviously I know during my career some good hackers who have been very good. When they reveal to me, and I'm talking about White Hat Hacker, even though they started off as Black Hat that to me is maybe even more fascinating than what we're talking about right here, because the intelligence community and everyone, big corporation, they all want to hire the best hacker community because the threat, whether it is from Russia, from China and wherever, whatever country is a lot bigger than some tanks with 16 guys are walking on the border of Ukraine. The threat here in terms of hacking is incredible.
[00:02:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course. No, cyberwarfare is so interesting and I've done a couple shows about that as well. How are thieves communicating during the — you call it the lift, right? Where they take the item. There's the blocker who distracts. The guy who steals is called the cannon, right? According to my research. I don't know. How did they name that?
[00:03:05] Bob Arno: Well, there's a lot. You know, we have a book and we have a whole chapter just on the lingo. It's called Travel Advisory.
[00:03:12] Jordan Harbinger: We'll link to that in the show notes.
[00:03:15] Bob Arno: In there we have all of those barriers, slang terms that they're using. You know, some years ago they did use them very intimately and each country has their own terms for these terms. So what a good pickpocket will say. The guy who is leading them. He is looking for partners who instantly senses and knows where he should be in relationship to the pickpocket. If you're there just to block, you're going to have a fifth sense looking at the victim, where the eyes are, friends of partners who are in between. How can I do it in a natural way? So I don't draw attention too much. So it looks like I'm unnatural. So I'm bumbling in and doing something forceful. How can you be in a semi-smiling kind way reaching for, or holding, taking up the newspaper and just shilling a look, or a map, a fake map. Very, very common flowers are common and shawl, the most common thing is the shawl. Am I saying it right?
[00:04:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like it's like a big scarf. Yeah.
[00:04:24] Bob Arno: So, they have a beautiful shawl. And she will fiddle with it for a second. You know, it was just flip out as if she's changing it. Well, in that particular little thing there — boom! She just shielded from outside or from the camera, what the hand of the thief was doing, or she may even be good enough if she's working alone at that moment to do with herself.
[00:04:45] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. Yeah. I mean, I've had a couple of pickpocket experiences. One, I was walking in Jerusalem and it was like a massive crowd, you know, those narrow streets. And somebody fell into me and I reached it and I felt the hand in my pocket and I turned around and there was somebody in robes, like long robes, and they were pretending they were an old lady, but I knew it wasn't because the hand was so strong. It was a strong hand. And it was like, it just didn't make sense. Like there's no chance that this old lady who's hunched over a hunchback is that strong. So I grabbed her and I squeezed in through my own pocket. I squeezed it and she pulled her hand out and then she just sort of like cut through the crowd all the way towards the wall and went away. And she ended up getting — not my wallet, but some other garbage thing that I had in there that had rubber bands around it. I don't even remember what it was, but it was junk.
[00:05:38] And then more recently, I think probably after our first interview, we were in Switzerland. I was with my family. My dad likes to walk like 20 feet ahead of us because he's not paying attention. And I saw this guy leaning up against the wall, smoking leather jacket. He looked like he'd been awake for about three days with no sleep, you know? And it's 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and he was dressed for the evening, which meant he'd probably been out all night and he saw my dad, locked down to my dad. My dad has a giant map and a bunch of crap sticking out of his back pocket. My dad's 77 years old, whatever. And he's walking and I notice him because he doesn't realize we're together because again, my dad walks like 10, 15 feet ahead of us. And I said, "Mom, that guy's a pickpocket." And my mom said, "What are you talking about? The guy almost burned you with a cigarette." "He's not paying attention. He's a pickpocket. And he's going after dad." And I walked up to the guy and I said, "Excuse me, do you know how we get to—?" And he was like, looking at me, looking at my dad. And he did try to ignore me. And I said, "Excuse me, do you know how to get to such and such whatever?" And he just looked at my dad and he went up, you know, he said to himself, "Screw it," because my dad was too far away. And I said, "Dad, dad let's get directions." And the guy just walked away. He pretended like he didn't understand me, but I knew he was going for my dad.
[00:06:52] Bob Arno: You know what you shouldn't have said is "By any chance, do you know Bob Arno?"
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, yeah, I will. Next time I'll do that. I'll say, "Do you know Bob Arno?" Yeah, I didn't want to get stabbed, but I just did the first thing I could think of.
[00:07:03] Bob Arno: No, no, there's no question of that. There is a percentage of violence. Let me go back to a couple of points. The first thing, if you're traveling to a new area that you haven't read about, and I would suggest strongly that you first go and read a little bit about your destination. There are state departments and other, you know, they give you those easy hints on what the percentage is. Because if you're going to go up in Norway to Stavanger, you're not going to get pickpocketed.
Well, nothing is impossible. Everything can happen, but there are some areas where simply culture and the way for the thief to coming in and survive that are so slim that he's not going to make that as a destination. So reading up in advance is smart. When you arrive into the destination, ask the front desk. "How careful do I need to be daytime with my wallet? What areas should I avoid? And in the night, should I take a taxi to that restaurant? Or can I walk back home?" Because if you take a place like Barcelona, it's night and day at 11 o'clock in the day and 11 o'clock in the evening, some of those very fashionable -- Born, for example. Born area. There are lots of criminal activity there, whether it is drugs or simple mugging. Mugging is just as prevalent as pickpocket, or maybe even more so. You get shoved into the ground and they grab it or they show you the knife and say, "Give me the wallet." It means, "Don't mess with me." Pass it over. Having that information you don't necessarily always get in a tourist brochure, but getting it from the front desk is really, really smart. Getting a little bit of pre-information.
[00:08:44] Have what I would call give-up money. If you're going into a territory where you hear, let's say you are on a safari down in South Africa -- and it doesn't necessarily have to be just South Africa. It could be any of the counties around, you know, whether it is Mozambique or Lusaka or whatever. If you're going on a small safari, extensive one, and then you don't have to worry because the travel organizer's making sure that your car isn't going to be stopped and carjacked and whatever.
[00:09:11] But when you're private, before, the few days before, a few days after, have give-up money. And that means money that you — when they hold you up against the wall, when they say, "Mother F, give me your wallet," You pull out your wallet that you're prepared and you have $30 or $20 that you are prepared to give the guy. So you're coming prepared to lose this in case of the confrontation. As far as pickpocketing, three credit cards, American Express and MasterCard, for example, whatever the third one, it doesn't really matter. Lock the third card into your safe in the hotel. As long as you're young enough to remember, damn it, that you have a wallet with a credit card, right? And if you lose your wallet, now you have the third card until you can go and report at the embassy and get the report and so forth. Have a copy of your passport and your credit card, all of the information on a website where you have access to and where you can drag it out. In case something goes bad, you can drag it off. You go to the embassy and you said, "Here's a digital copy of my thing." Instantly, within 24 hours, you have a new one versus having to wait a long time.
[00:10:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:10:25] Bob Arno: As to how you dress, I would say that any pocket that is fairly loose, you take a guy who is 50 years old. And he's not wearing jeans. The front pockets where they are slanted, slightly loose, is a piece of cake. There isn't a pickpocket who's worth his gold, whatever, who couldn't get in there and lift it. It's easier than a hip pocket because the hip pocket is slightly more contracting around it. If you are going on subways, stay away from the doors because that's where they're going to hang because once they got something they want to get off. So get in a tad and maybe have a hand over the wallet while you are entering that really crowded scene, as long as you are into holding on to poles and other things. But while you're going in and then analyze around. What is there, that is nearby me, how crowded? Is it like sardines? Well, then you have to be careful. Female handbag, have your arm squeezed around it, the opening all the time. If it's one of those handbags that just open at the top without the zipper, you just shove things down and not realize that if you have your phone in there and it's at the top, piece of cake, have it may be under clothes or shawl, whatever you have in that bag at the bottom.
[00:11:47] When you're in a big market, let's say, in Madrid, you are in one of those food markets and you're having lunch there and leaning over to pick something up. Then whenever your arms are out like this, whether it's a hotel lobby, that's when you're all here, you're not sensing what's going on.
[00:12:06] Jordan Harbinger: When your arms are out. That makes sense. There's a lot of tips and things like that in some of the videos that I watched. I'm finding it fascinating. And I've talked about this before with you a long, long time ago, you made that little, I guess, it's a documentary where you actually go to Naples to crack open the den of the best pickpockets and thieves. Tell me about this. Tell me about Angelo and all these guys. You guys are crazy.
[00:12:30] Bob Arno: Yeah. It's called Pickpocket King. And it was made by National Geographic and my dream was to meet the best pickpocket in Europe, maybe in the world and have dinner with him and his team and see if he is prepared to spill his guts. First of all, they said, what city are we going to do it with? In Paris, in Rome, whatever? I said, you know, I think Naples is the best one because it's almost like a national sport to do pickpocketing.
[00:12:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:58] Bob Arno: So then what they did to make sure that they have the film, they went to the police and said, "Could you give us some old pickpockets who has been arrested? And can you guarantee that they will talk to Bob Arno?" They paid to find these people. That doesn't make for a great film to have guys who are not a baker or food or designer, but he used to be 15 years ago, a good pickpocket. Maybe it is interesting, but it's not what the film is about. So when they had that secure, they came back and said, "One of the things that we wanted to do also was to put two teams together to compete where I was in one and the other team." Who could steal the most? But of course, have everything returned. The idea is that the public who is watching it should see how damn easy it can be. The moral aspect was that I didn't want to come across so that the viewers are saying, "There's no question about it. Bob Arno was a real street thief and now he went straight." So it was very hard for me to prove that in the film, but in any case, we went there and they had big cameras.
[00:14:09]When I was in the airport, they met me and they had the big cameras, and they said, "Bob Arno, this is how blah, blah, blah, here's what's going to happen here." And everyone around knew that it was a film team. In this time when it was made here or had come on the market — what's a small little digital camera?
[00:14:23] Jordan Harbinger: The GoPro, yeah.
[00:14:25] Bob Arno: Bambi and I, my wife, we were used with filming very, very small cameras inside our bags and fanny pack and whatever. So, in any case I said, get rid of that until we have caught some guys. So we went out, we couldn't see anything, nothing happened. And on the third day suddenly, I am inside on the bus already and I see three guys coming into the middle door. And the first thing I see is they do this—
[00:14:55] Jordan Harbinger: Looking around.
[00:14:56] Bob Arno: And my team is about 20 feet down with some small cameras. Three guys are coming through the middle door of the bus as it's open up and I'm seeing them glancing left and glancing right. They're standing straight, but their eyes are doing this. And there's no smile. They're really looking, intensely looking. These are seeds, but that doesn't mean they're going to go to me and steal from me, right?
[00:15:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:15:24] Bob Arno: So I am talking to my wife, Bambi, and I'm really cheery as if I haven't the faintest idea that these guys are thieves. Bingo! It's like — do you remember that old Popeye film where the eyes used to pop out like this.
[00:15:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, sure. Boing.
[00:15:41] Bob Arno: Yeah. That's the reaction of these guys. So they're coming up and it's fairly loose around, and there's not too many people, so they have to create their own little crowd. There are four in this team. Two people, who are not doing the stealing, are kind of angling up and leaning against, very, very nearby. And then they're coming up and they're stealing. I don't feel a thing. I know it's happening, but I don't feel the actual extraction. So I don't get that finger, but one of my team members who stands a little closer is actually getting the lift. So now we're getting off and I know the wallet is gone. So now I know they have it. Now, I can't start talking to them on the bus because they're going to say, "What? Me?" They drop bigger on the floor. So we have no film. So I want them to leave the bus without them thinking that I know.
[00:16:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:16:39] Bob Arno: They leave out and they watch me. And just as the door is about to close, I move out, talk, and kind of move it up, but they're already out so they can't get back up. And then I go back up and I smile like hell. And I hold up my phone and I say, "I'm from Las Vegas," and you see this huge faith and I'm holding my phone. I said, "I do the same. And I'm starting a film, a video of the Las Vegas thing where I'm stealing." And they're looking and suddenly they realize I'm a pickpocket but on stage.
[00:17:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:17:18] Bob Arno: And as I'm holding up, as he's grabbing my phone to hold it to look at it, I take his watch. I steal his watch. Now wait a minute. My guy who is going to feel they are much further away. They are not getting this footage of me stealing, but Bambi, my wife knows what is happening so her handbag, this is a small handbag with one of those small cameras inside. So she is filming it. As I'm stealing the watch. He sees it goes away a minute later, his reaction and he goes, "Wow." And he was super excited that stole his watch.
[00:17:59] So now we start talking. Now I don't speak enough Italian. So we have planted on the ground here or one of my team members. I tell them whenever we have this happen, step aside. So he sits on the ground about 20 feet away from where I'm standing with this cluster saying, "I'm from Las Vegas and a show, man." I take a regular guy who walks by and I stop him and I say, "Do you speak a little English.? Can you help me translate?" He said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no." I wanted the thieves to think that I needed someone to translate and anyone would do. So I say to one of the pickpockets, "What about that guy? Can we get him?" The pickpocket says, "Do you speak a little English," and he's sitting on the ground, he's our translator. He said, "Yeah. Why?" "Come here, come here." And he comes in and now we go to — "Let's go and have coffee together," they are saying, so we start the conversation. And from there on, we built over two weeks closer and closer and closer relationship. But the guy I really want to meet, this guy, he's not the best one. I know who is the best guy. So on the third week in Naples, on a tram. I see my guy working and now I approach him and I say, "Do you remember me from 10 years ago? We met here, blah, blah, blah." And then he looks at my wife, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah." And then we get him to meet up for dinner. So, we get 20 of the best pickpockets in Naples to come and have dinner together.
[00:19:40] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bob Arno. We'll be right back.
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[00:20:44] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Bourbon Time. There's no denying that this past year had us all spending way more time at home. And because a lot of us, including myself, are working from home too and made each day string together and feel pretty exhausting. A lot of us have found ourselves blurring the lines between work and rest, which takes a toll on our energy. The folks at Knob Creek see this phenomenon happening and they want to help us reclaim our evenings. Beat the burnout, take back the hour of 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. is the one hour where you let yourself do whatever makes you happiest. From 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., I'm just not talking. I'm resting my vocal cords from talking all day. I will go outside, go for a walk. You know, I don't necessarily have a bourbon every day, but usually I just wish other people had a bourbon at that point in a day. But we're leaving burnout behind starting now.
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[00:21:50] Now, back to Bob Arno on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:21:54] They didn't think it was a police operation or something like that.
[00:21:57] Bob Arno: No, wait, wait, wait. That's a good, good, good question. So one of these guys will not permit any camera work.
[00:22:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay.
[00:22:06] Bob Arno: All the time. He said, if you aren't on camera, you have to face it off. The others, the one that I had, the first encounter, who took my wallet is wearing an ankle bracelet, you know, police thing. And he is not allowed to be out from nine to five anywhere in the center of Naples.
[00:22:25] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:22:26] Bob Arno: And he knows that he stole from me. He doesn't know that we have caught him on camera. All he knows he stole and he shouldn't be doing that.
[00:22:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah.
[00:22:37] Bob Arno: So we're saying to him, "What do you think here that if we do a thing where you — we do a little documentary and at the end—" so he doesn't think that I have footage of him stealing. All he knows is he met me. And we're saying, "Would you do a little telling the public on how not to be a victim. Maybe that could help you with judges and lawyers and so forth."
[00:23:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Be the good guy.
[00:23:03] Bob Arno: Great idea. He buys into this and he tells his team. So we get the team to agree to this lunch and dinner, whatever you want to call it, with the understanding that the police are not going to look at them more favorable because they have all the tones and they are revealing things and it will help, you know, tourists. He has no idea that I had that footage. A year later when we came back for Christmas to spend with them, he said, "Bob, I agreed to that film. But I would never have agreed to that if I had known that you had that footage. That wasn't so good for me." So he was upset that I had kind of pulled the rug from under him.
[00:23:53] Jordan Harbinger: These guys have any moves that you hadn't seen before?
[00:23:57] Bob Arno: Yes, yes, yes. So they are able to — let us show that the victim stands here on my left.
[00:24:06] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:24:07] Bob Arno: And the pickpocket is here. Like I am here now and there's a pole here. Let's assume we're on a bus or in a supermarket. It doesn't really matter, but I'm doing something with this hand, this hand here that the thieves can see up here in full view with everything here. And the victim is beside me and he wants to go into his right pocket, whether it's hip or front, doesn't really matter. This hand, the right hand goes behind and he's able to go in with his right hand behind him, into that pocket with a little bit of notching.
[00:24:45] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:24:46] Bob Arno: And now when we had the dinner with all of the thieves, they got so excited to show me the moves. That one after another, they're jumping up and they're showing me this move. And I'm saying they must have been doing this since they were seven years old. There's no way in hell they could do that. Otherwise, if they were not doing it for forever.
[00:25:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right. I mean, they're reaching behind their back, going into somebody else's pocket, grabbing the wallet.
[00:25:12] Bob Arno: In the opposite side.
[00:25:14] Jordan Harbinger: That's crazy.
[00:25:16] Bob Arno: Did they have a few other things that were cute and so on? You know, that I heard rumors of. So some of these guys, for example — I don't mean lately, but when they were in their prime, when they were maybe 29 to 30 years old — when Germany had big markets, where they sold used cars, second hand cars, where maybe 600 cars over a weekend are suddenly sold in some sort of auction in Berlin, whatever. There would be coming in, very wealthy buyers from Russia, and they would buy lots of 60 cars, huge, huge numbers, lots of, lots of it. So suddenly there's a tremendous amount of money changing hands. So these dealers would be having maybe half a million on them or whatever, a lot of money, they would go to Switzerland and deposit. And the crime syndicates would know where they were deposited because they didn't want the Russian regime to know where they parked their money.
[00:26:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:26:17] Bob Arno: The thieves in Naples, the syndicate, would send teams in to surround this guy, this Russian guy, and lift it. And the moves that they did was — because I happened to see one of those moves from a Swiss film, the Swiss law enforcement film, when the guy comes in on a tram and there are two guys on either side of this victim and there was none of this usual pickpocketing move. The elegance was unbelievable. I have to look at it at least 10 times before I could see what the hell did I see.
[00:26:58] Jordan Harbinger: It's wild the amount of skills. It's sort of a shame, right? Because these guys are in many ways as good as any world-class performer, but really they're just an inefficiency in the economy and stealing from people. I mean, these guys express sort of remorse that this is all they really do for a living.
[00:27:15] Bob Arno: Yes, very much so, especially when they are hitting 45, 50. They feel that they have destroyed, not the reputation in the family, but respect from their children. Because the children today in modern Italy are going in a different direction, either a priest takes care of them because they come from poverty. So, sometimes there is a support system around them. They feel that they have almost destroyed that respect from their own children towards them. And they would love to do something else if they could. When I go and talk to them, it's very, very often the first thing we talk about is the unease insight.
[00:27:57] The same thing with some of the Romanians, for example, Romanian thief male, and some of them are very charming by the way. And that goes with the territory. They're charming because they have to engrace themselves and, you know, read very quickly. There's a very good smile and like a ping-pong, very quickly, boom, boom, boom, back and forth. There's nothing slow. They say they can never tell a girlfriend that they are a thief because the minute they do, the girl loses respect for them. And so it's very hard for them to build a natural, real good relationship with someone.
[00:28:35] Jordan Harbinger: That totally makes sense. I wonder, are these guys, are they faster than you or they're at the same speed than you? Do you think that you — I'm wondering like what you see in terms of skill?
[00:28:45] Bob Arno: Well, here's what you have to remember that I have done this longer than any of these guys.
[00:28:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:28:53] Bob Arno: Because I don't have the fear factor of serving time in jail.
[00:28:57] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:28:57] Bob Arno: So I started at 18 and you know, I'm still doing it. So, I have the psychological skills maybe better than they do. Meaning as I evaluate my people, as I see them walking up on stage or whatever it is, or if I'm out. And there have been times, for example, in law enforcement some years ago, in Latin America, they asked me — and I'm talking about the law enforcement there, they were having banks where money from Colombia was deposited by drug cartel people and the people that were in their country but belonging to the Colombian cartel, they were very vicious. They sometimes caught doing very nasty things. But one of them, I was wearing a fake passport and when he came in, it was so good that immigration could not detect that it was false, but they know it was false. They didn't want to go to the guy and say, "We're going to grab your passport," because then they wouldn't know where it was made. They wanted to look at it without tipping off the other side. So they asked me, could I put together a team and steal the passport from this guy so that they could get their hands on it. In order for them to see, because they were concerned, of course, if this guy is making such good passport, is it made in Russia? Where are they made and how can we can't detect the details?
[00:30:29] Jordan Harbinger: So you got hired by a government to go steal a passport from another criminal.
[00:30:33] Bob Arno: Let's say that I won't go any further on the story.
[00:30:37] Jordan Harbinger: I got you.
[00:30:37] Bob Arno: I'd like to say where it is and not nothing further. It's semi amusing up to this point, anecdote, but we won't go beyond this part here.
[00:30:48] Jordan Harbinger: But I get it right because you all, probably, always wondered, "All right, I'm on stage. I'm stealing belts, watches, whatever but can I do it on the street?"
[00:30:54] Bob Arno: I have asked myself that all the time, all the time, up until the film. By the way, it's shown in the film, because that was part of the film. I said to myself, "Can I or can I not do it as well as they do?"
[00:31:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:08] Bob Arno: And so I am doing it in the film, but there's a difference. I talk to the victim and pickpockets don't. So, for example, there was an American or Canadian tourist entering up on a bus. And my little team, I said something to the guy. I said, "Watch your hand there? Or that bag—" There's a little small verbal thing to distract, when I was lifting. Pickpockets don't talk. They lift and do everything silent. They may create a small diversion but they're not doing anything.
[00:31:43] Jordan Harbinger: They're not chatty.
[00:31:44] Bob Arno: Yeah. So in some sense, you could say there are some thieves in Latin America and in Barcelona that come from South America where they squeezed some like pigeon poop on it, on a little small bag. You don't sense it from behind. Then they wait two minutes or whatever, and they come up from another side and say, "Look, can I help you brush it off?" So now they have verbal contact and they can touch here while they're doing, they're stealing. There are words going back and forth, but generally speaking, that does not happen.
[00:32:19] So my point here is what can I do? And what can I not do, psychologically? Yes. In terms of going to an inside pocket, like the Russians can do. I couldn't do it, I can bump into the guy as he's coming up on the ladder and there's a bit of a physical contact and lifting it. It's nowhere near, as elegant as that guy. So, there are certain moves and certain things that I do from pockets and so forth that are as good or better than 90 percent of street pickpockets. But if you measure me against the very, very best in each country, I'm going to be a couple of pinholes below. The good pickpockets respect me for my skill. And they say, "Bob, I don't understand. How in the hell did you get this skill?" They are in awe.
[00:33:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Like how do you practice without actually stealing?
[00:33:12] Bob Arno: Well, it wasn't. Practice may be the wrong word because there is no way you can practice. You do it in real thing. So you gradually do it. But in my case, when I was young 25, 30 years old, they would catch me in the middle of the show, you know, whatever. They would catch me and I would learn from my mistakes. It's obvious.
[00:33:34] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bob Arno. We'll be right back.
[00:33:39] This episode is sponsored in part by Klaviyo. Ever wondered how the e-commerce brands you admire do it, how they know just the right messages to send to the right people at the right time. Guess what? It's not experience. They have the right data and the right tools. They have Klaviyo. Klaviyo's data-driven marketing automation platform is sophisticated enough to power those legendary campaigns from the brands you admire, but they made it simple, easy, and fast enough for anyone to use. Klaviyo helps brands easily create personalized multi-channel marketing campaigns, using your most powerful asset, your customers' data. Klaviyo integrates with all leading e-commerce platforms, helping you use your customer data in real time to send more relevant SMS and email automations. Plus building a marketing campaign is drag-and-drop easy. You can get started with your first campaign in under an hour and easily build from there with Klaviyo's best performing templates. Klaviyo gives you all the power of an enterprise marketing automation platform and none of the complexity. So you can compete with the big guys. No wonder more than 65,000 brands can't get enough.
[00:34:32] Jen Harbinger: To get started with a free trial of Klaviyo, visit klaviyo.com/jordan. That's K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/jordan.
[00:34:40] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by Fruit of the Loom. Fruit of the Loom didn't get where they are today without taking a few chances. They are forever moving toward the future and forever optimistic. They don't brag. They let their innovation speak for themselves. It's this spirit that will take them into the next century of Fruit of the Loom. Every day over 32,000 talented and passionate innovators, wake up excited to obsess over even the smallest details so people can give their attention to what matters most. That's the kind of brand they are. They set the bar high and shoot even higher. They pursue better relentlessly, better fit, better quality, and better performance. They create quality apparel at an affordable price for anybody and everybody. I grew up with Fruit of the Loom and I'm sure many of you did too. With over 170 years of sparking soul, therefore just going above and beyond on every standard and putting passion, care, and optimism into every stitch. Because since 1851, they never once settled and got no plans to start. Visit fruit.com.
[00:35:31] This episode is also sponsored in part by Progressive. What's one thing you'd purchase with a little extra savings? A weighted blanket, a smart speaker, that new self-care trend you keep hearing about. Maybe you'd support a sponsor of this show. Well, Progressive wants to make sure you're getting what you want by helping you save money on your car insurance. Drivers who save by switching to Progressive save over $700 on average, and customers can qualify for an average of six discounts when they sign up. Discounts like having multiple vehicles on your policy. Progressive offers outstanding coverage and award-winning claim service. Day or night, they've got customer support, 24/7, 365 days a year. When you need them most, they're at their best. A little off your rate each month goes a long way. Get a quote today at progressive.com and see why four out of five new auto customers recommend Progressive.
[00:36:14] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. National annual average insurance savings by new customers surveyed in 2020. Potential savings will vary. Discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations.
[00:36:26] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you once again, so much for listening to the show. I know these two parters can be a beast. I told you it'd be worth it and it is. By the way, if you're looking for the sponsors, I know there's a lot of codes, there's a lot of URLs. We throw those all on one page. jordanharbinger.com/deals is where you'll find them. So the codes are easy to find. We appreciate when you support those who support us.
[00:36:46] Don't forget we've got worksheets for many episodes. So some of the drills, exercises, we talked about during the show. Those are often in one easy place. Not every episode has them, but many do. The link to the worksheets is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. All right, here we go with the rest of my conversation with Bob Arno.
[00:37:04] That's so interesting. I think the whole idea of being a professional stage pickpocket, finding the real street pickpockets, befriending them, and then learning their techniques, and having that almost in the film — and I'll link to the film in the show notes, because it's on YouTube — having almost like a trade convention at that cafe. I mean, that must've been — you look like you were probably happier there than you probably have been in. It's got to be one of the top 10 experiences for you.
[00:37:33] Bob Arno: Well, funny you should say that because sometimes I think back, what are the 10, most moments in my life that have been unbelievable crowns of certain things. I had a very famous photographer who was my friend, lifetime, in 1963. And I was with him and one more photographer where the emulation, the suicide burdening of the monk in Saigon. So I took that picture with two of the other guys. That was a height. I didn't create that myself. It happened because at four o'clock in the morning, I was asked by this guy, "Do you want to come along? Bob, come along." And they took off. I was there at the right moment. And then I had a guy called Lord Moynihan, a very famous financial advisor, to famous famous drug lord. At the time, he was my manager, not the drug lord, but the other guy.
[00:38:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I assume.
[00:38:27] Bob Arno: And I got into the life and that has created a door openers for law enforcement later on. So there has been various moments in my life where unbelievable scenarios — you know, the Teflon Don in New York, where I worked in a small club, I was working in Atlantic City for about two months, but never over the weekend because I wasn't big enough for the name. So my agent said, "Hey, I can book you in a club in New York on Saturday, Sunday or Friday, Sunday." I said, "Okay, great." I've walked in. On the first day in, into this club, and it would maybe only 60 seats, they said, "Whatever you do, when you do your show at 11 o'clock don't touch that table. You can touch anyone at that time." I said, "Why is that?" "Nevermind, don't touch anyone." So I'm doing my show and halfway through and gradually it's a long table, 10 people about, and there's a guy at the head, but they came in slowly during the evening. So in the beginning, there's no one, then two, then four, then six, whatever. And these were guys, those 10 of them were a crime syndicate in 1983 in New York, when this took place, who controlled the sections of New York.
[00:39:32] Jordan Harbinger: So these are like mafia, five family guys.
[00:39:35]Bob Arno: Mafioso guys which is obviously why I wasn't supposed to touch anyone.
[00:39:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:39:40] Bob Arno: So in the middle of my show, one of the guys said, "You can't do that on me. That is so phony, there is no—" and he kept taunting me and he kept doing this. And finally, I said to myself, "Screw you, the management." I am going to take this guy up and he has this shock thin, shiny gray suit. You know what I'm talking about? That is so typical. It's really hot stuff in those years.
[00:40:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:05] Bob Arno: And as I'm holding my hand on his left shoulder to sort of see his body language, so I am stealing with my right hand and I'm over here. And every time I move somewhere, he's right there with his hand. And then he smiles back to his guys over at the table, meaning, "See? He's trying here, but I am one step ahead of him." So when I steal the tie it's done from behind, from under the coat gradually slowed up. So I said to myself, I want to take the tie, but if I'm starting to put my hand here, he's going to feel it. So I pretend to go for something else, aiming all the time for the inside here. All the time he's there and every time he's making his move here, I'm jerking another half inch of the tie off of the knot. Finally, the whole skinny part is out. The knot is here and the white part and the rest is hanging behind. And I'm saying to him, "Are you okay now?" And he's looking down, "Yeah, I'm okay. You know." "Okay. You can go back." And as he's about to move, I steal the tie. He has no idea. He walks back. He sits down and he goes, "See? Blah, blah, blah." And I'm holding it up. The rest, the nine guys at the table, including the boss, they go absolutely apesh*t and smiling. They think this is the funniest thing they've ever done.
[00:41:26] Now from here on, in every weekend, when these guys come in with new l ieutenant, this boss, this guy is saying, "Make sure," through maître d', "That he takes on of my guy." They insist on it. At the end of my two months, I'm saying, "Sorry this is my last," whatever, one of them, not the main guy, calls me over to his side table and he said, "I want you to know the boss here, he really likes you. Here's a name and a phone number whenever you run into any problem, just call this number and we'll take care of it."
[00:42:02] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. I assume you never had to call that number.
[00:42:06] Bob Arno: Correct. Well, I did have to use it as a mini threat. So I'm on the Royal Caribbean a few years later. That's a cruise ship and I'm performing. And I'm doing it two weeks in a row. And there is a guy from Chile who is crew member on board, dancer, whatever. And they have a show for the audience where all of the people who work on board, who can, whether they're singer, dancer, whatever, they do one-hour show. And this guy is doing a little magic show and he steals one of my stunt and he puts it into his show. And when I came back on board, the others, people who are working on board said, "You know, he took it from your show. Maybe you shouldn't do it in your own show because the audience—" So I confront him and he says, "Yeah. And what are you going to do about it?" The next week I come back, I say to these guys, his friends, "Every Saturday the ships are coming into Miami, and you have to get off your ship and you're going to buy some shaving cream and the newspaper and some fruit or whatever. You're going to have it all, for here. I have a number and I may have to call you in a favor if you don't take that thing off." And he took it off.
[00:43:20] Jordan Harbinger: Because he didn't want to test you. That's funny. He probably thought, "Oh, this isn't real. This is — why would he have a mafia number?" And they had to, "Do I want to play the odds on this one? I don't know." That's funny. I wonder if the number still works. You ever try it just to see if it still works.
[00:43:36] Bob Arno: You know, I have friends who worked, sometimes did favors for them. And of course, in early time of my career, I worked at Lido, Liseberg, New York, and others, a lot of those joints were run by them and if they liked you, they would forever ask you. They would have a bar mitzvah or a special birthday. They would fly you in and you will have them there, but you never got paid, but you were always asked, "Hey, do you want to be part of this?" You know, so I never called up that number and further on, obviously, the secondary aspect of who is listening to them, taping them whatever.
[00:44:10] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:10] Bob Arno: You'd have to be pretty stupid. But if you ask for a favor from one of those guys.
[00:44:15] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point. I hadn't thought about that. That's why I'm not a criminal. Did you ever find out who that boss was?
[00:44:20] Bob Arno: Yeah, that was the Teflon Don.
[00:44:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:23] Bob Arno: I mean, they never said it directly. And I mean, I looked at him and I could see later from photos and so on. It didn't register on the day that I saw him but then later when he was in the news, I put the two and two together.
[00:44:38] Jordan Harbinger: So that's John Gotti for people who don't know, just in case you needed a more stereotypical name.
[00:44:46] Bob Arno: He's not alive.
[00:44:47] Jordan Harbinger: But who knows, who knows who picks up that phone now? It's probably a defunct bar that isn't there anymore. You know, it's been 40 years.
[00:44:55] Well, thank you so much, Bob. This is always fun. I'm telling you, people, definitely go into our show notes. Watch this film. We'll link up. It's probably still on YouTube, right? Is that National Geographic?
[00:45:06]Bob Arno: Yeah, it has eight million views.
[00:45:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:08] Bob Arno: If you do a search on YouTube, all you have to do is say pickpocket king, those two word. If you spelled it wrong, you could get some competitors, some guy who is unhappy that it has eight million views, but no, it's very, very popular. You can also go to something called thiefhunters.com, spelled that, right? And there you have a site where we have catalogs of various thieves where we have met with thieves and, you know, we reveal and how you should behave in different — it's a kind of almost like a podcast, news things, little snippets with thieves. There's a lot out there about me that you can search for.
[00:45:46] Jordan Harbinger: Great! Bob Arno, thank you very much. We'll link to all your stuff in the show notes. This is always so fun and entertaining. And one day I hope to run into you and then like, see how this all works because you know, it's so hard to imagine it happening to you, but obviously if you can do it to John Gotti, you can do it to anybody.
[00:46:01] Bob Arno: No, it wasn't him who was up, it was one of his lieutenants, right?
[00:46:04] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:46:04] Bob Arno: If it was to him, maybe I wouldn't be sitting here in the chair. I would have one hand.
[00:46:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You'd only have one hand. It's a lot harder. You'd figure it out. You'd still figure it out. Great. Thank you so much.
[00:46:14] Bob Arno: Thank you. Love it, by the way, all the people that you have and the edginess. You know what I really, really, as a guy who specialized in checking on con man, is how you have found people who are on the cutting edge of crime that we should understand a little bit more about. And I could tell you that John le Carré, the author, the English guy who died just recently. In his memoir, he has explained how he got close to people, how he fished up, how he got them to open up, how we got this building block. It's very similar in my film. You have to have the curiosity. You have to be able to make your opponent think that it's a great guy to ping-pong with. If you come across like a stiff interrogation like this, nothing is going to happen. And you're good at that.
[00:47:01] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate it. I wasn't sure if you were talking about me or talking about yourself. I couldn't tell from here.
[00:47:06] Bob Arno: I'm drawing the two together. I'm saying here that you have got a fabulous field that I think can just get bigger and bigger.
[00:47:14] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you very much. I look forward to meeting you in real life once we're allowed out of the house.
[00:47:18] Bob Arno: Thank you.
[00:47:21] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before we get into that, here's a preview of my conversation with an expert who spent more than two decades, rooting out the counterfeit goods and services that fuel a trillion-dollar industry that only benefits petty crooks and organized crime networks. It's not just handbags or designer clothes, alcohol, makeup, even cancer medication are just the tip of the iceberg of what gets counterfeited. Here's a quick listen.
[00:47:47] Kris Buckner: Anything and everything is counterfeited from automobile parts, cancer medication, alcohol, kids off syrup. I mean, anything that somebody can fake to make money, they're going to do it. I mean, we found human feces, rat feces, and carcinogens in some of the counterfeit makeup. It's really, really scary. I mean, people can actually die or really get harmed over the stuff. The general public thinks, oh poor people just trying to get by trying to make a living, but somewhere down the chain, a criminal organization is involved in that counterfeit items. The sales of counterfeit goods are actually listed in Al-Qaeda's training manual on a quick and easy way to raise revenue for operational purposes, because why? It's a crime that's completely worth doing for them, where they can make huge amounts of money. And then let's look at the human impact. Where are these goods made?
[00:48:32] Jordan Harbinger: Chinese kids in these factories in the middle of nowhere. There was an investigator online who said he was about to do a raid with the police and he heard children's music and he thought, "Oh wow, they have childcare for their workers." And then when they came in and they found a bunch of kids at sewing machines, handcuffed to the machines. And he said the smell was unbearable because they weren't allowed to go to the bathroom.
[00:48:52] Kris Buckner: The common perception, oh, it's for people just trying to get by or trying to make a living. It's really not the case. I mean, this is tied to organized crime, criminal cartels. I mean, there's a whole big picture behind this stuff. You will see law enforcement do seizures where they're pulling three million cash out of someone's house. And that's all the proceeds from counterfeit goods. When you're buying that item, you are contributing to that child labor. You're contributing to that terrorist organization. That is where the money is going, undoubtedly.
[00:49:21] Jordan Harbinger: Even if you don't care that the Gucci bag you got for just 20 bucks, can't be spotted as a knockoff by the snootiest in your circle of friends, here's why the trillion-dollar counterfeiting industry should concern you, check out episode 308 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Kris Buckner.
[00:49:39] I just love this stuff. Bob's a fascinating guy. We are friends now. He is quite the character. I've never knew there were different styles of pickpockets. I guess that's not something the layman really knows. Bob was telling me that the Roma sort of the — some folks say gypsy, we don't say that anymore. The Roma pickpockets are more brazen. They're more sort of gutsy. The older Italian, it's a little more chill. It's a little more smooth, a little more sleight of hand. It takes a lot more time to perfect that skill. And so maybe that's the difference there. Younger Roma, by the way, don't get sentenced as hard under the law. So they tend to be younger and more aggressive because there's kind of no teeth to the law that stops them from doing this, which is why it's so pervasive or one reason why it's so pervasive. In fact, when I was researching this episode, Jen told me that her family got pickpocketed when she was little, they squirted ketchup all over her. And when she told her grandmother that happened, her grandma started to clean the ketchup off of her. And that's when they went into her handbag and lifted it. It's kind of an interesting trick. That is still by the way in use.
[00:50:33] Also of note, stage pickpockets, so performers, they won't steal Rolex watches because you have to break the strap in order to do it, or one of the pins in the strap. And, you know, people don't take too kindly when you break their — what's a Rolex? Like 10, 20 grand. When you break their $20,000 watch, which probably has a really expensive ass watchband, people don't appreciate it too much. You get less applause, especially from that guy. And by the way, random tip to see if an area is safe to walk in at night at hotels, you know, we usually go like, "Ooh, I'm just going to ask the concierge." The concierge grew up differently, right? They're often a little bit more educated or a lot more educated. They're multilingual, they're inside all day. The porter, the guy facing the street, he usually grew up, not necessarily on the street, but definitely in the city. You know, they're usually guys that are starting off. They're also looking at the street every day. All day long, they see all the characters walking by, and more importantly, they know how the streets change and the characters on the streets change after sundown. So you can actually find a lot of good intel from hotel porters, not just about but about pretty much everything.
[00:51:36] When I was in Cuba, we would ask the concierge and the people in the hotel where we could get the best food. They never had a good answer. They always send us to tourist-ass restaurants. When we asked the Porter where we could get good food, he sent us to a bunch of underground restaurants and called friends that would drive us around and take us to their houses. I mean, it was a totally different experience. So, the hotel Porter, secret weapon. Who knew?
[00:51:59] Links to everything on Bob Arno are going to be in the show notes. Please do use our website links if you buy books from the guests, because that always helps support the show. Worksheets, we put in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on the YouTube channel. jordanharbinger.com/youtube is where you can. We've also got a brand new clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show. Highlights from interviews you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you can find that. Also I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me up on LinkedIn. Love talking with you there.
[00:52:30] Speaking of connecting, I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and create those relationships before you need them using the same system, software, tiny habits that I use. That's at the Six-Minute Networking course, and the course is free. I don't charge, I don't need your credit card. None of that drama. Jordanharbinger.com/course is where you'll find that. And most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:52:52] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into magic, sleight of hand, pickpockets, intel, this is a fascinating topic. I hope you share it with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of this show. That's certainly the idea. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:53:28] And special thanks to Hyundai for sponsoring this episode.
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