As first reported by “Corporate Travel Safety” over here, there’s a new technique in play* on Las Ramblas and the surrounding streets. We’re going to give it a nifty title: “The Free Hugger.” (Thanks to Donal for telling us about it.)
(* Yeah, yeah, we know you’ll all come on here now and say you’ve seen this being done before.)
The above website calls the approach the Ronaldinho, but regular users of Robbed in Barcelona will know this is incorrect. For a photo of the Ronaldinho technique, have a look here; we’ve written about it many times.
The Free Hugger, however, works differently. The author describes it as follows: “The pickpockets have several variations of this scam, but in a nutshell they approach you, pretend to be a ‘friend’ that has not seen you for a long time, then quickly embrace you in a jubilant but clinging hug.” The article goes on to say: “This unusual way to pickpocket victims appears to be successful for pickpockets because there is no violence, intimidation or typical bump distraction that travelers are taught to be on the lookout for. This type of pickpocket scam has been reported several times by distracted tourists.”
There are a few other photos published at the above link, if you’re curious about the series of events that led to the successful robbery (pictured), but the images are a tad grainy and hard to make out.
Just another thing to watch out for at 3 a.m. in the morning.