The BBC reports
that police in Italy are searching for a thief who hypnotizes checkout staff and orders them to hand over money.
In every case, the last thing staff reportedly remember is the thief leaning over and saying: "Look into my eyes", before finding the till empty... A female bank clerk reportedly handed over nearly 800 euros (£630)...
Italian police believe the suspect could be of Indian or North African extraction.
The BBC has a video of the thief in action. It's interesting, because he pulls off his heist in full view of other customers, who are apparently oblivious about what's going on.
This is not a new method of robbery. Back in Oct. 2007
I posted about a thief in New Hampshire who was said to be using hypnosis to rob convenience stores. In that case, the thief was also Indian, which is significant because the art of hypno-robbery seems to have originated in India.
It sounds like a method of robbery that's too good to be true, but I think it is real (i.e. the store clerks aren't secretly in collusion with the criminal. They really do unwittingly hand money over to him). But I don't think the criminal is actually hypnotizing the clerks. They don't go into a trance. Instead, the method takes advantage of a psychological trick -- that if you catch people off guard, they'll often do whatever you tell them to. The British magician Derren Brown demonstrates the principle in a number of his videos
. I think you need a combination of a very self-assured thief who projects an air of authority and a highly suggestible victim to get this to work.