Police in Brest, France have arrested eight illegal immigrants after locals reported having their cellphone stolen after taking up a stranger’s offer of ‘free hugs’.
While police declined to communicate the exact number of complaints the force had received, West France reports that the central police station in Brest has seen numerous complaints from individuals who had fallen victim to the trick over the weekend.
Reports of cellphone thefts in the city on Saturday and Sunday repeatedly described the same process, beginning with victims being offered ‘free hugs’ while walking along avenue Georges-Clemenceau or the rue de Siam.
During the “embrace”, the street criminals take the opportunity to slip a hand in the victim’s pocket to steal their mobile phone. “The victim usually only becomes aware of the deception once it is too late,” reported local media.
Eight people have been arrested in connection with the scam, all of whom “men without a residence permit, some of them minors”, according to West France, reporting that all eight of them have been “issued summonses to appear before either the Criminal Court or the Juvenile Court”.
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The scam apparently takes advantage of the automatic goodwill towards strangers felt by many. A video of a Muslim man offering “free hugs” to passers-by in Manchester last year, shortly after a terror attack in the city by an Islamic extremist claimed 22 lives, was widely reported by dozens of media outlets across the globe.
“This is the poignant moment a young Muslim man turns terror on its head,” one outlet proclaims of the video, which features Baktash Noori wearing a blindfold and carrying a sign which said “I’m Muslim and I trust you. Do you trust me enough for a hug?”
The Muslim YouTuber said he was inspired to make the video after being very upset by “hate crime and hate comments being shown all across the web” following the deadly blast at a pop concert which injured 120 people, many of whom were children.
“Free hugs” stunts with the aim of combating ‘Islamophobia’ after terror attacks appear to be something of a phenomenon, with a video featuring an almost identical message to Noori’s in Paris in 2015 after Islamist bloodshed left 89 concert-goers dead “going viral” with more than ten million views.
A Muslim teenager who filmed himself after the Paris attack carrying out the same blindfolded demo — offering “free hugs” while wearing a blindfold — in Nottingham, because he was angry about living in a society “where I was being called a terrorist every day”, also attracted millions of views and fawning media coverage.