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Police Warn of Distraction Thefts

Police Warn of Distraction Thefts
August 14th, 2019 - Police & the Community

The Barrie Police is warning the public of a yet another scam that has made its way to our community.

The distraction theft can take many forms, but the ultimate goal is to obtain your bank/credit card and fraudulently use it to make significant purchases before discarding it. Unknowingly, the perpetrator of this type of crime has already obtained your PIN number and once they get your bank/credit card, the spree begins long before you realize your card is missing.

On Saturday August 10, 2019, shortly after 10:00 a.m., the two victims had both attended the same grocery store and in less than 20 minutes had their bank/credit cards stolen. The scam works like this:

  • The suspects usually target a senior who is in line and casually move into a position that allows them to see the PIN number being entered as they make a purchase.
  • In both cases, the suspect casually drops a $20 bill and tells the victim that they dropped the money. The suspect picks it up and hands it to the victim.
  • The suspect then approaches the victim outside the store and indicates that the money actually belonged to the person behind them, causing the unsuspecting victim to open their wallet.
  • As they are looking into the open wallet to return the money, the suspect distracts the victim temporarily which allows the bank card to be removed and then equipped with the PIN, the cash withdrawals and spending spree that often involves prepaid gift cards begins.

Given the nature of these types of thefts, the Barrie Police remind shoppers of all ages to always shield your bank or credit card when entering your PIN and if some is crowding you in the checkout line, to not be afraid to ask them to respect your space.

These investigations remain ongoing and local stores, banks and the grocery store where the incidents occurred are all assisting Police with providing surveillance video of the suspects using the stolen bank/credit cards. A total of just over $5000 in cash withdrawals and gift card purchases were made using these two stolen cards, all within close proximity to where the original theft had taken place.

Suspect descriptions vary in each occurrence, but other jurisdictions who have reported similar occurrences have indicated that there are usually a number of persons involved in this type of crime.  One victim in Barrie described a suspect as being a male in his 50’s, while the other indicated the suspects were both in their 20’s and were male and female. The only common link is the suspects are believed to Middle Eastern with a tanned complexion and possibly an accent.

It is unknown if these suspects have moved on, but the Barrie Police is warning the public of this type of criminal activity so that no else becomes a victim. By protecting what is yours and being aware of those around you at all times, the chances of you becoming a victim can be significantly reduced.

Anyone with information on these thefts and subsequent frauds is asked to contact Constable Graber of the Barrie Police Service at 705-725-7025, ext. 2753 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or leave an anonymous tip online at www.p3tips.com.

 

Prepared by: Peter Leon
                     Corporate Communications Coordinator

Occurrence: BA19044550
                     BA19044559