Crime Culture Lifestyle

A KL supermarket security head tells us 4 disturbing trends in Malaysian pickpocketing

Seen one of those cases of supermarket theft? While it may sound like another “Ahhh it won’t be me la, I’ve read enough WhatsApp messages to know la…”, well, our very own TahanUni.my editor (It’s a CILISOS sister company, site for college kids) lost his wallet in a high end grocery store in a central spot in KL. 

He’s actually a pretty smart guy (well that’s why he got hired la) and doesn’t even look rich, but he got pickpocketed, losing all his cards and cash in a couple of seconds. Thankfully, he got help from the security officer of the grocery store. Kesian that he didn’t get his wallet back, but we did get some stories from the security officer.

Mr Khairul (not his real name), is the Chief Security Officer of this high-end grocery store. As a son to a police officer who wasn’t allowed to become a police himself, the next best thing for Mr Khairul was becoming a security officer after his previous job bored him to death.

Just imagine that this is the guy we're speaking to la. (That's not his face tho...)

Just imagine that this is the guy we’re speaking to la. (That’s not his face tho…)

With almost 5 years’ experience under his belt, Mr Khairul shared some helpful tips for shoppers to stay safe from his tenure with CILISOS. 

 

1. Sometimes, the thieves are Datuks or Datins

They might look like they just came off the runway but do not be fooled! Even Mr Khairul warns his staff daily to be vigilant.

“I always tell my staff to be careful. I tell them ‘All customers are shoplifters’ which really has them on the lookout for anything suspicious.

I’m going to do everything that’s possible to prevent these cases from continuing in my store. You’ll be surprised to know that the culprits to half of the cases in my grocery store is done by rich people.” – Mr Khairul to CILISOS

Financially rich but but not so rich attitude wise lah. They have the luxury to pay the bail money, unlike some people who steal because they’re struggling. Unlike the people who steal to feed their children because they’re broke, rich people steal for many other reasons. Some get so addicted to stealing because they’ve never been caught that they can’t so stop it. Others steal because they feel the need to get themselves some free goodies after splurging. The worst ones are the ones who do it just for the adrenaline.

Like during Winona Ryder's shoplifting past :(

Like during Winona Ryder’s shoplifting past 🙁

It’s actually not that hard to identify the culprits! All you need to do is to look out for certain types of people and stay clear of them. Mr Khairul gave us a few characters for you look out for :

  • People who wear hats and look down while walking
  • People who walk around the shop for an hour without buying anything
  • People who carry the store’s recycle or plastic bags (to escape without being detected/easily hide customer’s wallet/phone)
It's easy to pop something that isn't yours into a store-branded grocery bag. Photo for illustration purposes only, by Christopher Pike @ The National

It’s easy to pop something that isn’t yours into a store-branded grocery bag. Photo for illustration purposes only, by Christopher Pike @ The National

Security officers in grocery stores have been working with police because of the increase in pickpocket cases in stores! Though, if you’ve always wanted to steal something for adrenaline purposes, just remember that if the security officers do catch you, THERE’S NO COMPROMISE! The police will be notified and you’ll be arrested. If you’re under 18, expect a call to go to your parents. If you’re in your school’s uniform, your teacher will receive a call.

 

2. The shopping trolley is always used as a prop 

I know when dat trolley bang, it could only mean 1 ting

I know when dat trolley bang, it could only mean 1 ting

The only time everybody really participates in a group work is when they’re about to steal something. Usually, the group works within 3 to 4 members and the maximum is 5 members. And this syndicate literally looks out for customers in stores to steal from! Freaky right?? They enter the shop together and split away to stroll around the store looking out for their prey and gather again when they leave the store.

Their modus operandi is creating distraction by any means necessary. As this is a grocery store, trolleys are very commonly used as a prop. In what manner, you ask? They come bang you ‘accidentally’ lah while you shopping! This distracts you while another person from the group proceeds to open your bag’s zip or take away your purse or phone that you left carelessly in your trolley.

“Most of the cases that I’ve encountered are the work of the syndicates. Syndicates are very meticulous in a sense where they have a job for each person in the group.

One accidentally rams in to you. While another proceeds to open your bag’s zip. Then, another opens your bag’s zip some more. Lastly, one plucks away whatever is in that compartment.” – Mr Khairul

There are actually many cases of this syndicates in Malaysia. Most of these syndicates target places are the hotspots in Malaysia like Bukit Bintang and Brickfields. These places are full of tourists and high end shops that it’s easy for the culprits to cari makan everyday.

Syndicates stealing from customers. Photo from freemalaysiatoday.

Syndicates stealing from customers. Photo from freemalaysiatoday.

We did get an estimate amount of number of pickpockets cases from a police officer:

“There’s about 2 to 3 cases a day in town areas. This is because the crowds provide a nice cover for the thieves to slip through undetected.” – Mr Zul, Brickfields police officer to CILISOS

So, you better hold tight to your valuables!

3. Sometimes they play jedi mind tricks on you 

In fact, be careful with people who talk to you… especially if it involves using a certain level of brainpower! Mr Khairul tell us that thieves like to play mindgames with their victims.

Huh what huh?

Imagine doing this while attending to a crying baby or something.

But this is not to be confused with pukau because this magic doesn’t even involve literal magic unlike pukau that deals with black magic. It’s very psychological where the culprit creates a situation where your brain focuses on and can’t multitask thus allowing the culprit to swindle either the money or object.

One such example is the ‘small change’ scam, and it’s not that uncommon internationally. In fact, Mr Khairul told us that once, a cashier in this grocery store was swindled out of RM500 in just a few seconds.

“I watched the CCTV footage and found out that the culprit asked the cashier if she had duit kecil for RM1,000. The cashier gave him 20 RM50 notes which he then asked if there was duit kecil in RM10 notes.

She said no and he gave back the money but she made a mistake of not counting the money again. This whole thing happened in just a few seconds! He hid the RM500 behind his hand while skillfully handing back the remaining RM500 to the cashier.” – Mr Khairul

Unfortunately, the cashier had to pay for the RM500 out of her own money. Apparently, it’s one of the rules and regulations of the cashier in retail stores to not give out small change to customers to avoid issues like this. So, if you’re ever refused duit kecil in any stores, remember this lah.

Jusco recycle bags. Photo from aeonretail.

So don’t feel offended if cashiers don’t stop in their tracks to give you small change. Photo from aeonretail, for illustration purposes only

 

4. Just because it’s an atas place, doesn’t mean you’re shopping with civilised people

Real classy! Gif from White Chicks (2004)

Real classy! Gif from White Chicks (2004)

Civilised in the sense that these people don’t do morally-unacceptable stuff like stealing la.

Before Mr Khairul told us the story of this unlucky Japanese man who had his luggage stolen in a few minutes, he told us that most of the people were careless when they were bambazooled by the culprits. This unlucky Japanese man who wheeled in his luggage with an added bag on top of his luggage, left it standing in an aisle while he went off to look around the store. Why didn’t he pull the bag with him when there’s wheels on the luggage?? Actually it could be because in Japan, leaving bags unattended is actually a very common thing. Most times they leave it on their restaurant seats to ‘chup’ the place while they go and order from the cashier.

A common sight in Japan. For more on this go to dannychoo.com

A common sight in Japan. This wouldn’t work in Malaysia tho. Photo and more insights at dannychoo.com

“People don’t expect their things to be stolen when they’re shopping in a high end grocery store so, they just leave their things to look around the store. It’s not safe to even walk two feet away because pickpockets are always looking out for careless customers.” – Mr Khairul told CILISOS

Few minutes later, a man swiped the Japanese man’s luggage like Swiper from Dora the Explorer and walked RIGHT. OUT. THE. STORE. Too bad for him, no one saw his luggage being stolen nor did the owner himself realised. Only few minutes later, did the owner realise his bag wasn’t there, decided to walk around the store thinking he misplaced the bag and finally, came to the conclusion that he was a victim of snatch theft and carelessness. By then, the culprit could have been kilometres away from the Japanese man with his luggage.

“We did help him to report to the police and watched the CCTV footage but I knew he’ll never get back his luggage. If you do get back your stolen luggage, consider yourself lucky!” – Mr Khairul

 

So… what to do if this happens to you?

Screengrabs taken from World of Buzz

These cases can happen anywhere, and can take less than 5 seconds. Screengrabs taken from World of Buzz

First things first: do not panic! The security in the store will help you. Mr Khairul did say that he (and others like him) will help the victims but as a procedure, the victims need to provide the store security officers with a police report. Most times, the report will make you eligible to ask for the CCTV footage.

I’m always there for the customers. No doubt but before you demand to see the CCTV footage, you better call the banks and cancel your credit cards. That’s more important before you even file a police report.” – Mr Khairul

It’s also really important to remember the time that you enter the store. Reviewing CCTV footage is not easy, especially when they have multiple cameras! Oh, and don’t forget to cancel your credit cards if your wallet or purse was stolen.

You’re not the only one who’s mad. Mr Khairul feels very angry and sad that his store had seen one too many cases too. And he hates it when the tourists are targeted. The reviews might reflect badly on his store, so Mr Khairul works harder each day to avoid any such cases like that from happening.

“When the tourists lose their things, they comment on social media. If they said ‘Be careful when you shop in Malaysian stores’ it’s fine. But what if they said ‘Do not shop at this grocery store. There’s a lot of pickpockets here’? My store will get a bad name, you know? – Mr Khairul

The only true way to actually protect your valuables is to be alert! Look out for any suspicious people who might be following you for the third time even though you’ve already walked past the meat section 2 times. Unfortunately, we couldn’t receive the exact statistics on these cases because according to one police officer that we reached out to said that most of these cases are classified under ‘tercicir’ (dropped).

“Most of the people don’t know for sure if they’re a victim of pickpocket syndicates and us, police, can’t file the case under pickpocket if there’s no eye-witness or CCTV footage providing proof. There’s also people who lose their IC and make a report saying it was a pickpocket to not pay the RM 200 fine.” – A police officer from Petaling Jaya.

If you’re travelling overseas and are very afraid about losing you money, watch this video that gives you tips on where to hide your money. Though we’re not too sure about it as millions would have watched it by now so, the culprit will probably know where you hid your money! But just to be on the safe side, don’t be so careless lah!

NAH, BACA:
Here's how thieves in Malaysia are fooling shop alarms...with nothing more than some foil

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