Thieves work together to distract and rob debit card users, police say

Calgary police said they are investigating a series of “distraction” thefts in the city, acts they say target debit and credit card users, often elderly people.

In a statement on Monday, investigators said it started with suspects watching people enter their PINs while making purchases with their debit or credit card.

The police believe that others then hijack their target, creating the opportunity to steal the debit and credit cards.

“As a result of these thefts, victims reported to police instances of fraudulent cash withdrawals using their debit or credit cards, some transactions purchasing prepaid credit cards and other merchandise” , police said.

Police cited several recent examples of what they believe to be “distraction” thefts.

In one case in March, a person was leaving Costco at 75 East Hills Blvd. SE when he had cash and a credit card stolen from his wallet.

“Four suspects are believed to have worked together to distract the victim, removed his wallet from his pocket, removed the contents of the wallet, and then returned the wallet to the victim’s pocket,” police said.

“Sensing something was wrong, the victim checked his wallet and found his money and credit cards were missing and notified store staff, who then reported the incident to the police.

In the past month, police say six other absentee robberies have been reported to investigators.

According to police, people can help protect themselves against such thefts by following these tips:

  • Protect the PINpad when entering your PIN at an ATM, retail store, or financial institution.
  • When you’re at an ATM or paying for goods, watch out for anyone standing nearby who may be watching you enter your PIN.
  • If you come across someone who says you dropped money when you didn’t, or who is very close to you, go to a safe place and report the incident.
  • Trust your instincts, if something seems suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.

About Joan Ferguson

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