Criminal Strategy: Forced Teaming

If someone who gives you weird vibes is acting oddly chummy, beware: This is a common criminal strategy.

by posted on March 6, 2024
Deering Criminal Strategies Forced Teaming

Some crime develops very quickly—smash-and-grab burglaries, your standard muggings, etc. But some crime develops over the course of a bit more time; minutes or hours. This particularly includes crimes where the bad guy needs you to trust him and lure you into a sense of security so he can get you alone or get you to go along with some plan that’s going to lead you into danger. This can include rape, date rape, kidnapping, and even muggings or assaults where the criminal needs to get you into a more advantageous place or position to carry out his plans. Even conmen who do not plan to use physical violence, but who will hurt you financially or otherwise, will employ some of these methods.

These kinds of criminals use specific strategies to try to earn your trust. Author and security expert Gavin de Becker lays out a list of these strategies in his excellent book “The Gift of Fear,” and we’re going to look at each strategy to show you what it looks and sounds like and how you can guard against it.

Of course, not every person who approaches you and says the stuff you’re going to read about in this series has nefarious intent. But be on the lookout whenever you recognize someone using one or more of these methods.

The first in our series is called Forced Teaming. A bad guy using forced teaming is trying to create a sense of “we’re in this together,” particularly if you’re in some kind of predicament. The dead giveaway of this strategy is use of the word “we.” He will try to make it seem like you and he share something in common or like you need each other. He might say things like:

“Hey, I’m headed to that movie, too. Just hop in the car with me, we don’t want to be late.”

“Let me help you carry these groceries to your apartment. We don’t want to spill these bags all over the parking lot!”

“Oh, boy, the elevator is out of order. What are we doing to do now?”

This might feel like a coincidence, that he showed up near your car while you were unloading groceries or that you both got to the broken elevator at the same time. And it very well might be innocent, but if he’s a criminal using the forced teaming strategy, it won’t be a coincidence—he planned it this way.

Be wary when the word “we” is thrown around, especially by a stranger. He’s trying to establish trust or some kind of rapport so you’ll be comfortable around him.

How to Combat Forced Teaming
The way to recognize and combat the forced teaming strategy is to remind yourself who and what you’re dealing with: This is a total stranger, and you did not ask for his help. This is especially relevant if you’re alone and/or in a transition zone. Why does he want you to be comfortable with him?

Be very clear to the point of rudeness: “No, I don’t need help” or even “I didn’t ask for your help and I don’t want it.” You do not have an obligation to be polite to anyone, and you don’t have an obligation to interact with strangers, especially those who make you uncomfortable even if you can’t put your finger on exactly why.

The bottom line: If you are approached by a stranger when you’re in a vulnerable place or position and he starts offering help and using the word “we,” as if you and he are a team, remember—you’re not. He wants you to get comfortable around him. Ask yourself why, and be aware that you might be looking at a forced teaming strategy in action.

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