"Shoulder surfing" thefts occur when a thief stands very close to thief victim as they enter in a password, PIN number, or other information when making a transaction. This can take place in the context of:

  • ATM withdrawals
  • Bank deposits
  • In-store purchases (i.e., credit card "swipe" machines)
  • Various other public settings

In addition, some shoulder surfing thefts may be accomplished through hidden video cameras that were set-up before hand by the criminal. In many instances, a whole team of criminals may be conspiring on a single incident. Shoulder surfing can also be part of an overall identity theft scheme.

Are There Any Legal Consequences for Shoulder Surfing Crimes?

Obtaining access to a person’s bank account, personal records, or other information is considered a crime and may be punished very strictly. These may be classified as misdemeanors, which are punishable by criminal fines, jail time, and other consequences. In cases where very large amounts of money or property are stolen, the charges may be elevated to felony status.

Also, shoulder surfing crimes can have other consequences, such as civil damages awards to compensate the victim for losses. In some cases, the institution where the crime occurred may be required to increase or update their security policies.

How Can Shoulder Surfing Crimes Be Avoided?

Shoulder surfing crimes can be avoided by:

  • Being aware of your surroundings- don’t let people too close to you when making important monetary transactions
  • Cover your information with your hand or other objects when entering in codes
  • Fill out information before hand as much as possible (i.e., obtain bank slips and fill them out at home when possible)

Lastly, you should report any suspicious activity to the police and the store managers as soon as you observe it. Many shoulder surfing crimes go punished simply because people chose not to report suspicious behavior.

Should I Hire a Lawyer as the Victim of a Shoulder Surfing Crime?

Shoulder surfing crimes can lead to serious losses for victims. You may wish to hire a criminal lawyer if you believe that you have been victimized by shoulder surfing theft. Your attorney can explain your rights to you and can provide legal advice for your situation. Also, your lawyer will be able to represent you in court during the trial meetings.