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Robbery through chemistry?

  1. Dec 3, 2009 #1
    There is a story circulating here in Peru about a robbery scam in which an old lady asks for help in reading a cell phone number on a slip of paper. A brief time after the victim touches the paper a tingling sensation begins in the fingers and starts traveling through the body. Unconsciousness follows within a minute, after which the victim wakes up with their valuables missing. Any thoughts on whether this is possible, and if so, what the chemical agent could be? Thanks.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2009 #2


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    It's plausible enough that I don't feel it'd be responsible to say what I think could do that.

    (See also the note on dangerous/illegal activities)
  4. Dec 3, 2009 #3


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    Aren't there plenty of easier ways to rob people already?
  5. Dec 3, 2009 #4
    Sounds like some sort of potent neurotoxin. Maybe they rub the slip of paper on something like a poison dart frog? Whatever the substance is, it won't be easily acquired. A criminal element is going to find out what it is and try to get it anyway if they really want to.
  6. Dec 3, 2009 #5
    In Peru the list of scams and other theft tactics is limitless, especially if you’re a gringo. In the op I was trying to determine if this ‘new’ scam is an urban legend I hadn’t heard of, or if it’s something I need to take seriously. It does have a science fiction ring to it.

  7. Dec 3, 2009 #6
    Seems plausible, although I'm not sure they necessarily need to be this sneaky about it in Peru. As far as I know, potent neurotoxins aren't the cheapest and easiest things to get, so they would probably be able to rob more victims just by putting a gun to their back and telling them to empty their pockets. If this is real, these criminals have a lot to learn about business and efficiency :rolleyes:

    Also, how does the old lady touch the paper and not get knocked out? That seems to be the biggest problem in this to me (still plausible though).
  8. Dec 6, 2009 #7

    Char. Limit

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    Maybe she has something on her hands to neutralize it. Or maybe she wears gloves.
  9. Dec 6, 2009 #8


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    Neurotoxins could work. But only a few can get through the skin, and in enough quantity. The time it would take to work would be quite a lot. It has to go through the skin tissue then into the blood (veins then heart then lungs then brain)then into the brain or most of the body to paralyse. It's a 5 min trip at least IMO. Seems hollywoodian.
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