I located a large public area, like a library, and then lay in wait until someone left their car keys unattended on a table. You’d be surprised–shocked, even–how often people do this. When I was really lucky, someone would leave their keys behind entirely and I could take them on the pretext of turning them in to the lost and found. I never took anything else, like a laptop or even cash, because the cops knew about those theft rings and were far less likely to believe my excuse.

Once I found a set of keys, I’d go out to the parking lot and try the automatic unlocker key fob to see what vehicle responded. Sometimes I even went so far as to try the key in every lock that matched the key’s design. Then I’d drive the car to a safe spot to take stock.

There usually wasn’t much money, but you’d be amazed at the things people leave in their cars or (if they’re slightly smarter) their trunks. I could usually drive to a local pawn shop and get some cash for the things rattling around inside before selling the car to a local chop shop or abandoning it.

A simple con, but it’s what kept me going those long lean months in the middle of my darkest days.

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