Police warn Calgarians of spike in ‘distraction thefts,’ jewelry scams

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Police are cautioning Calgarians after a rise this month in “distraction thefts,” a scam thieves often turn to as the weather warms.

The thefts often involve a suspect approaching a victim in a public setting and explaining they need money, perhaps for gas or because they’ve lost their credit card. The suspect offers fake gold or jewelry to the victim in exchange for the money.

In variations of the scam, thieves will get into close contact with the victim to lift jewelry off them, or swap it for fake items.

One incident in Calgary in March even involved an offender knocking on a victim’s door and asking to use their washroom, stealing valuables from a bedroom once inside.

Since March 1, there have been 10 such reports from Calgarians who say they fell victim to a distraction theft. The scams are common and known to police, and mirror similar recent incidents in British Columbia, said Calgary Police Service Staff Sergeant Jeremy Wittman.

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“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,” said Wittman, a member of the CPS’s criminal intelligence unit, in a news release.

Thieves often drive in rental vehicles to hide their identity, police said. Investigations into the 10 incidents are ongoing, and it’s not yet known whether suspects in the crimes are connected.

The scams target the tendency of Good Samaritans to help out their fellow Calgarian, according to Wittman.

“We know that these offenders will prey on the good nature of Calgarians, especially seniors and vulnerable members of our community,” Wittman said.

Police offered a series of tips to protect against these thefts.

They recommended always asking questions, especially if a situation seems too good to be true. Don’t feel pressured to say yes to any situation, police added.

Police also advised Calgarians to keep physical distance from others and not to let people into their home.

Those who are victimized by a distraction theft, or who have information about recent incidents, are asked to call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234. Tips can also be sent anonymously to Calgary Crime Stoppers.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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