A Thief by Any Other Name …

password meme

As some of you may know, the past week has been extremely stressful because my email account was compromised. Except it wasn’t, really. It was spoofed. For those of you who don’t know what that means, some [insert favourite swear word] hacker breached AOL and copied the address books of thousands of their customers. Then, they sent out spam emails to everyone contained in those address books – repeatedly. [insert second favourite swear word]. The thing about spoofing is that I could change my password to something hard to guess, scan my computer for any nasties and it still wouldn’t make any difference because the spam wasn’t coming from my account! [combine first and second favourite swear word]!


Actually, once I realised that there was nothing I could do, the stress was relieved. But that was still a week of my life I will never get back and countless grey hairs and wrinkles added! I still hope there is a special circle of hell for hackers. And people who steal identities. And pickpockets and muggers (especially the b*st*rd in Barcelona who mugged us!) and burglars and con-men/women and thieves!


Which got me thinking about what kind of people do this kind of thing. Doc Cambridge reckons there is a spotty, nerdy 19 year-old in his parents’ basement in Eastern Europe or East Asia getting his jollies out of the misery he’s causing, because he can! I like the imagery, but suspect the reality is a lot more commonplace and ordinary.


That got me to thinking about how we romanticise thieves and conmen. Whether it’s Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief or the wonderful Ocean’s gang in the Ocean’s series, they’ve been made into romantic figures. Then there are the TV series like White Collar and Leverage. In most of these, the thieves are effectively Robin Hoods – robbing from the rich/villainous or otherwise undeserving to give to the poor/to do good. Even hackers are rarely portrayed as bad guys, unless they are the villains in a TV series or film that the ‘good’ thieves/hackers/conmen are after! Even in books, we find heroes and heroines who are effectively crooks – but who are romanticised.


I have to admit, I enjoy watching those thieves and reading about them too. Probably because they rarely impact the lives of ordinary people – except to help them. They certainly don’t create a week-long stressfest! I also love reading and seeing the bad guys get their just reward. Now, if only I could see the person(s) who breached AOL and made my life a misery get their just reward, I’d be happy. And, yes – I bear a grudge!

Over to you. Have you ever been hacked/mugged/pickpocketed/burgled etc? 

Do you have a favourite film and/or TV series that features a romanticised criminal?

Do you have a favourite book featuring a hero or heroine who is a romanticised criminal?

Posted in , , ,



  • flchen1 says:

    I’m so, SO sorry, Anna! That is probably one of my great fears–being hacked or impersonated, or ??? I think these days there are too many ways to have one’s identity stolen, and that is definitely a cause for concern.

    And you’re right–I know I’ve read great stories about thieves–after all, Robin Hood, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and those were all glorified but did after all, steal. I’m sure one could argue they were common criminals 😉 (Uncommon criminals?) 🙂

    • flchen1 says:

      Ooh, and The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s Eleven were very much heist movies that glamorized theft as well…

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Hi Fedora! I think it is a concern when the company you rely on to be safe is hacked! It’s like your bank being robbed!

      I think it all probably comes down to motivation – hackers who attack ordinary people are not heroic. Just as a thief who stole from an eighty year old widow wouldn’t be heroic.

  • Jane says:

    Hello Anna,
    I think Doc Cambridge is right. I remember when they charged a Russian hacking ring for stealing and selling over 100 million credit cards. Then there was this huge data breach with Target. The heroine and hero in Sidney Sheldon’s “If Tomorrow Comes” steal high priced items like art and jewelry. Catwoman is a favorite, the character not the movie.

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Hi Jane! How are you enjoying the playoffs?

      I love Catwoman too *g*. Especially the Michelle Pfeiffer version. Though never in my life would I have ever been able to fit into that catsuit!

  • Annie West says:

    Anna, that sounds hellish!

    I have to say I have a soft spot for Cary Grant in ‘To Catch a Thief’ and for some of the Robin Hood type characters but generally no, the thief doesn’t appeal as a type to me. I’ve been interested to see how so many people here in Australia have been glued to several TV series based on the lives of real gangsters here. I prefer a romance myself.

    But, speaking of thievery, check out ‘How to Steal a Million’ with Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn. Great fun. An no real theft!

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Hi Annie! I have a soft spot for Cary in most films – even Suspicion! He is so charming in To Catch a Thief. I adore him in Charade as well.

      Ah yes – love How to Steal a Million! Peter O’Toole’s blue eyes *sigh*!

  • Minna says:

    Have you ever been hacked/mugged/pickpocketed/burgled etc? Not so far (knocking on wood).

    Do you have a favourite film and/or TV series that features a romanticised criminal?
    Robin Hood (tv series and movies). I also like the documentary about him By Tony Robinson. Did you know Robin Hood was really from Yorkshire? 😉 And he definitely didn’t give the stolen money to the poor. This bit of information was also mentioned in Last of the Summer Wine (episode How Erroll Flynn Discovered the Secret Scar of Nora Batty).

    • Anna Sugden says:

      LOL MInna – who knew you were a Last of the Summer Wine fan?!

      I suspect with all these stories, there is a bit of fact cloaked in a lot of myth. We all like to believe in heroes!

  • Helen says:


    This is terrible to happen I have to say I have been pretty lucky so far touch wood but I do have family that have been robbed and when my sister’shous got broken into they got into her Amazon account and bought so much stuff with her credit card and what is the hardest thing is it is often hard to prove you didn’t buy these things hugs to you.

    I love Robin Hood and the older movies with Cary Grant in them I am sure that I have read many stories with heroes that have done this sort of thing but the mind is blank at the moment

    Have Fun

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Hi Helen! How terrible. That is a hard thing to prove. When we were mugged in Barcelona, the bank (where Doc Cambridge had banked for over 40 years!) accused him of giving away his PIN no because the thief had used his debit card so quickly! I know there are a lot of dishonest people in this world, but it is sad that the first thought has to be that the victim is a liar!

  • Caren Crane says:

    Anna, I’ll admit I love a “good” thief as much as anyone! One of my favorite movies is “The Thomas Crown Affair.” And who is sexier than Roarke in the JD Robb books? I just realized I am currently reading such a book. It’s Elizabeth Essex’s “After the Scandal” and in it, the Duke of Fenmore is a former pickpocket! He had a rough childhood. 🙂

    I love him and all his canny street smarts. It’s a great book and I think more of him for his special skills, not less. If only all street urchins grew up to be peers of the realm!

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I wondered who would mention The Thomas Crown Affair, Caren! I haven’t seen it for years – must check it out again. I also wondered who’d mention the delicious Roarke! Well done!

      One of my favourite books is Lorraine Heath’s Between the Devil and Desire – the romance for the Artful Dodger! I love Jack Dodger *g*. I think you’re right – those skills are appealing. Perhaps that’s why shows like White Collar and Leverage do so well.

  • catslady says:

    When first married our apartment was robbed. Mostly coins but also some jewelry that was dear to me. Found out later that it was a cop’s son that lived in the complex but of course nothing was returned and nothing happened to the kid. I hate the injustice of that. I hate vandalism because like hacking, there is no point other than to make life miserable for other people or to destroy just for the sake of it. I have more compassion for someone stealing food or robbing a bank or large corporation (but of course they have to be doing it for their starving family or something as noble lol).

    • Anna Sugden says:

      How awful, catslady. Even worse that nothing happened to the culprit! It’s so hard to lose something that is precious to you, like jewellery. I’ve had my wedding jewellery stolen twice and had it remade twice, by the same jeweller who made it originally. Somehow it doesn’t feel the same, even if it looks identical.

      I agree – someone who steals for kicks or just to be richer gets little sympathy from me. Especially when they make ordinary people miserable.

  • Hugs Anna –

    My AOL account was hacked years ago. I only use it now to give out to companies so they won’t bog down my main email addy with all their newsletters and spam posts.

    It’s sad that so many people steal, hack, and destroy for fun – but I think based on the volume that most of the hacking is for profit. There would be no stealing of addresses if there wasn’t a market for it.

    That said – I love smugglers like Hans Solo and Capt. Malcom from Firefly. Loved the Thomas Crown affair, but then I love Pierce Brosnan :). Can’t think of a book with a thief, but I know they are out there. It’s the skills I love – but they have to be for the good. After all, I’m a romantic 🙂

    • Anna Sugden says:

      I’m sure you’re right that there must be a profit from the hacking and all the other cons that go on. I just find it strange that people want to run those scams on ordinary people.

      Ah yes, Captain Mal and Hans Solo! Two favourites of mine too. One of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite of your books – The Trouble with Midnight – involves a thief ;)!

  • Teresa Hughes says:

    Hey Anna!! I had my email and Facebook account hacked a few years ago. Huge hassle! Don’t get why hacking is such entertainment for hackers.

    As for movies my favorite is Gone In Sixty Seconds where they steal cars in order to get one of the groups brothers out of trouble.

    Hate you had such a bad week hope things are better soon!

    • Anna Sugden says:

      Hi Teresa! Uggh on FB being hacked as well as your email! Thanks for the good wishes!

      Oh I LOVE Gone in 60 Seconds! Such a fun film! I have a soft spot for former soccer player Vinnie Jones, who’s in that film too!

  • Becke says:

    Mugged? How dreadful. People with no integrity make me crazy. I can’t wrap my head around how you live with yourself. I know we all unintentionally hurt others. However, the intent thing is a wild one. I worked in a child psych unit and we had what some would call a sociopath. He was interesting-no remorse, no thoughts of others, just pure impulse. If you were between him and his target–too bad.

    I can remember in the 80’s when movies shifted to romanticizing the bad guy. I didn’t like that–still don’t. I believe in karmic justice, but it really sucks that we don’t get to witness it!

  • Mozette says:

    Mugged… no. People who mug others and beat them to get money and valuables off them – leaving them in the street for dead – have no soul in my eyes.

    However, when I was in London, I figured out that the people there would pick your pocket no matter what walk of life they were.
    I was around the richer side of London – in South Kensington in fact – leaning against a building with my backpack on and my elbows back level with with the building and two guys still tried to pick pocket me for my medication… I told them that all they were going to get was either a really bad reaction to my medications or used tissues. They weren’t put off, they still wanted what was in my back pack side pockets…. well, until I looked up and noticed a cop watching and I nodded at him and walked across the road and asked if I was okay. I told him they were trying to rob me (and they had been very polite about it too! They asked me to ‘..please move your elbow…’). He told them to sod off and leave me alone.

    And you know, this was done around lunch time, on a busy street, in broud daylight. i told the cop I didn’t understand; but then, neither did he.

    The next time it happened was the same day, around 4:30pm on the train back to my hotel. I had my backpack with me and a businessman standing next to me tried to get the side pocket open. I growled at him that if he wishes to use that hand again, he’d better keep it to himself. He did.

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    Sorry that happened to you, Anna.

    Many years ago I had my wallet taken out of my purse while I was at a grocery store with my two kids under two years old. I didn’t know until I took my full cart of food to the cashier. They asked me if I wanted them to save the cart while I talked to the police, but I had no cash, checkbook or credit cards. *sigh* Never did get anything back and someone tried to buy a car using my info a month later, but I’d already contacted the credit agencies and canceled all the credit cards. It was a pain in the *bleep* 😉

  • Laurie G says:

    On one of our first trips to Florida after we were married, we were robbed at the beach. They broke into the trunk of our car and stole our camera and all it’s accessories while we were swimming. Also my purse and some golf clubs. All in about 20 minutes. Very frustrating and upsetting! We immediately cancelled my credit cards ,but then we had issues paying our hotel bill and had to call our bank to verify we had money in our account to cover the bill. Embarrassing!

    To this day we never take anything of value with us to the beach.

    Movies: Entrapment , Mission Impossible, and Now You See Me

    Books: Bourne series, The Lost Duke of Wyndham-Julia Quinn, FLYING KESTREL pirates, COME THE NIGHT Christina Skye