The Art of the Lift

What is a pickpocket? The dictionary merely states that it is a thief who steals from pockets. While this definition is technically true, A pickpocket isn’t just a thief who steals from a pocket, a pickpocket is a master in the art of diversion. Picking a pocket is called a “Lift”

The art of the lift (picking Pockets) is a skill that is worth discussing. I will state now that Pick pocketing IS ILLEGAL! However knowing how criminals do there thing is one of the best ways to defend your self from them as well. Also lift   some other illegal acts if done in an emergency they can be justified you just have to work it out in court or with the police.

The lift

Now that that is out of the way, A lift is a task of not only skill and stealth, but of DIVERSION. You don’t need to have fast hands (although it helps) as long as the mark’s mind is on something else. The human mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time, and its attention is easily diverted. If someone is thinking about something else, then their minds wont be on their pockets, purse, etc…and whose hands are in them. Those who have seen the movie focus will know this explanation.

The human mind can be distracted easily

To prove this here is a simple test: count to yourself OUT Loud to ten but when you get to 5 THINK the word “batman”. Could you think and count at the same time?

No, it doesn’t work like that. The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time, so if you bump into someone they will feel that and not you slipping their wallet out of their pocket or purse.

The over all goal of a lift is to take a wallet or other item off a person without them knowing. This skill can also be used to place something onto a person if that is needed as well. Oceans Eleven has a great scene that shows examples of both taking and placing an item. A partner or a team is best for this sort of thing as it allows other to create the distraction and you can focus solely on the lift, but working solo is possible as well. The movie Focus also has a great scene of pick pocketing as a team. All of this pick pocketing is ILLEGAL in done in real life and for example purposes only. ( I find it crazy I need to write that)

Remember to be stealthy and blend in. The 13th Moscow rule applies here, “Lull them into a sense of complacency.” People will be on guard and might remember you or be more aware if you act oddly. Keeping the lift out of sight is vital for success. Be careful, even if the mark feels or sees nothing someone else might.

A lift could be used to gather intel, acquire a quick change disguise item, or maybe the key to the room the kidnappers are holding you in allowing you the opportunity to escape.


Restaurants are fertile grounds for pick pockets because dinners hang jackets or bags over the back of their chairs or on the floor.(possible quick change disguises.) But an opportunity can present it self anywhere.

The stereotypical pick pocket you have probably seen is the Bump and Lift. This is where the pick pocket bumps into the target and lifts the wallet during the impact and apologizes as he passes by and leaves.

The key is to time the lift to be simultaneous with what ever the distraction is. This would be you lifting the keys to your cuffs, their phone, some other item for your escape off of your kidnapper while he is distracted by muscling you into the van or your holding area.

We will cover more examples and techniques in future posts and in our news letter when it goes live.