Police encouraging Calgarians to beware of distraction thefts
We are asking the public to be vigilant following a number of distraction thefts and scams in Calgary. Police have been monitoring this trend, which typically increases in spring and summer months, and are offering tips to help the public identify potential scams and protect themselves.
Since March 1, 2021, we have received 10 reports of Calgarians being victimized by a form of distraction theft or scam. In a majority of the cases, offenders approached the victims in a public setting and explained that they needed money, often for gas or because they lost access to credit cards. Offenders offered to sell the victim gold and/or jewelry in exchange for the money, however the victims later discovered that the gold and jewelry were fake.
In some instances, offenders initiated physical contact with the victims to discretely steal or swap jewelry from the victim for fraudulent items. In one case, an offender knocked on the door to a victim’s residence and asked to use the washroom. Once inside, the offender stole valuables from a nearby bedroom.
“This is a common scam that we see each year, and one that has also recently been occurring in British Columbia,” says Staff Sergeant Jeremy Wittman of the Calgary Police Service Criminal Intelligence Unit. “We are doing our best to proactively prevent these thefts and are hoping that with this warning, citizens can be better prepared to identify these scams, take steps to protect themselves and report these incidents so we can investigate.”
It is common for these offenders to travel in rental vehicles as a way to conceal their identity. The investigations into these incidents are ongoing and at this time it is unknown if the offenders are connected to each other.
“We know that these offenders will prey on the good nature of Calgarians, especially seniors and vulnerable members of our community” says Staff Sergeant Wittman. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, always keep your distance and contact police if you feel unsafe.”
Citizens can protect themselves by following these tips:
- Question if the item being offered for sale is genuine. If something seems to good to be true, it likely is – always ask questions.
- Don’t feel pressured to say yes. Reputable sellers will allow you time to do due diligence and verify their claims.
- Keep your physical distance and don’t let unknown people into your home. These offenders are skilled in physical distraction. The closer they get to you, the more likely they are to successfully steal or swap your valuables for fraudulent ones.
- Report incidents to police by calling the non-emergency number. If you have been victimized, report it immediately by calling 403-266-1234. Images of suspects, vehicles and licence plates are extremely helpful to investigators.
Anyone with information about recent distraction thefts and scams is asked to contact police by calling 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:
APP: P3 Tips
During the month of March, CPS, in partnership with Fraud Prevention Month partners, has been sharing fraud prevention tips to help educate citizens about how to recognize, report and stop fraud.