Calgary, AB,

Police warn public of distraction thefts

The Calgary Police Service is warning Calgarians about recent distraction thefts and are seeking public assistance to identify multiple suspects believed to be responsible.

The scam starts with suspects observing victims as they enter their PIN, also known as shoulder-surfing, while they make purchases with their debit or credit card. It is believed the suspects then distract their victims, which provides an opportunity to steal their debit and credit cards.

We believe that numerous individuals work together in groups to steal financial information and target victims, often elderly individuals, at retail outlets where contactless payment, such as a tap payment, is not offered.

Following these thefts, victims have reported to police, instances of fraudulent withdraws of cash using their debit or credit cards, with some transactions purchasing pre-paid credit cards and other merchandise.

In January, a victim was shopping at the Walmart located at 8888 Country Hills Blvd N.W., and paid for merchandise using her debit card. Shortly after, she proceeded to her vehicle and realized her wallet containing her debit card had been stolen.

In March, a victim was leaving the Costco located at 75 East Hills Blvd S.E., when he had cash and a credit card stolen from his wallet. It is believed four suspects worked together to distract the victim, removed his wallet from his pocket, removed contents from the wallet and then returned the wallet back to the victim’s pocket. Feeling something wasn’t right, the victim checked his wallet and discovered his cash and credit cards missing and notified store staff, who then reported the incident to police.

Also in March, a victim was shopping at the Costco located at 11588 Sarcee Trail N.W., and paid for merchandise at the cashier. She then proceeded to the exit where store staff confirmed her purchases. During this process, the victim observed a man and woman standing extremely close to her. The man and woman then left the store in advance of the victim. Shortly after this encounter, the victim discovered fraudulent activity on her financial accounts and that her wallet had been stolen from her purse.

In the last month, six additional distraction thefts have been reported to our investigators and we are asking citizens to be aware of this scam and their surroundings while shopping.

There are multiple suspects believed to be involved in these thefts.

Anyone with information about distraction theft incidents, or the suspects, are asked to contact police by calling the non-emergency number at 403-266-1234, or anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:

TALK: 1-800-222-8477
APP: P3 Tips

Case #22034401, #22119864, #22117652/5600

Below are steps citizens can take to safeguard themselves from distraction thefts:

  • Always shield the PIN pad when entering your PIN at any ATM, retail store or financial institution.
  • While at an ATM, or paying for merchandise, be aware of anyone standing nearby who can observe you entering your PIN, also known as shoulder-surfing.
  • If you encounter someone who says you have dropped money when you have not, or who is in extremely close proximity to you, proceed to a safe place and report the incident to store staff or police.
  • Trust your gut, if something seems suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.