Members of a gang of shoulder-surfers arrested in Amsterdam
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Members of a gang of shoulder-surfers arrested in Amsterdam

© Belga

Some of the members of a gang of mainly female should-surfers active in Belgium have been picked up by police in Amsterdam.

Shoulder-surfing is the name given to the thieves’ technique of standing behind someone, usually an older person, at a cash machine or other payment terminal, such as in a supermarket, and watching while they key in their PIN code. The person’s bank card can later be stolen and their bank account plundered.

A gang of about 25 young women have been active in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The six arrests in Amsterdam took place at the end of November, but the news has just been released. One of the suspects is already facing a nine-year prison sentence in Belgium.

Police and banks constantly warn customers to be wary when using cash machines to ensure nobody is able to see their code. But the practice of shoulder-surfing continues, and it may be that the gang has so far been so successful because customers are less on their guard where young women are concerned. People are also likely to be less vigilant when dealing with the stress of shopping in a supermarket. In Belgium alone, the gang is thought to have stolen half a million euros by this technique in more than 100 incidents.

Earlier this week police in the Charleroi area and around Paris in France raided several houses in connection with the investigation into the gang. Nine people were detained, two of them men, and property including cars seized to a value of €6 million.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times