For Immediate Release / September 26, 2019

RCMP - Crime Stoppers - Distraction Thefts

St. Albert RCMP want to inform the community about the rise in "Distraction Thefts" that have been occurring in the city over the past months. Distraction thefts occur all over Canada, it is not just a St. Albert or Alberta problem. In fact, the particular suspects who have been seen on surveillance video in St. Albert are the same suspects Law Enforcement are seeking to locate in Ontario regarding distraction thefts.

St. Albert RCMP have determined the distraction thieves tend to:

  • Target seniors, vulnerable persons, or women shopping alone.
  • Target commercial locations such as grocery stores/parking lots, Walmart stores/parking lots, and Mall parking lots.
  • Drive high-end vehicles, either registered to themselves with Ontario license plates or newer model rental vehicles.

These suspects utilize different techniques when approaching potential victims:

  • Selling gold/jewellery in a parking lot claiming it is real.
  • Flagging people down on busy roadways claiming they ran out of gas and would like to trade/exchange "gold" for money they will use for gas.
  • Shoulder Surf by standing closely behind a person in a checkout line in order to see the person’s credit/debit card PIN when they are paying for their purchases. The suspects then distract the customer by dropping money on the ground and claiming it belongs to the victim. The suspects try to get the victim to open their wallet and when they do, the suspects distract the victim through conversation and use slight of hand tactics to steal the victim’s credit or debit cards.
  • These suspects will also stand closely behind someone at a checkout line, get the victim’s PIN number, and then follow the victim outside engaging the victim in conversation (distracting them by talking quickly in a foreign language, asking for help/directions, or claiming the victim has a problem). Once distracted, the suspects use slight of hand tactics to steal the victim’s wallet/purse.
  • The suspects will approach vehicles in parking lots and ask the driver for directions to the nearest hospital, Dr’s office, pharmacy etc. The suspects will speak quietly to get close to the driver and then use slight of hand tactics to remove jewellery from the driver without them noticing.
  • The suspects have also approached victims and attempt to give them jewellery as a gift or the suspect will offer it for sale at a reduced price, claiming they need the funds for a funeral or a trip back to their home country. The suspect then places the fake gold jewellery on the victim, makes overt physical contact (embracing the victim, touches their hands, kisses their faces) all while removing or switching out the victim’s own jewellery without their knowledge.  This all happens within seconds. Force has been used in some cases (not in St. Albert) but not a common practice.

The victim's stolen card(s) are immediately used by the suspects at various stores, maxing out limits and clearing out bank accounts. Many victims do not realize they are victims of theft until they try to use their bank/credit cards at a later time. 

St. Albert RCMP Detachment Commander, Inspector Pam Robinson, states "citizens need to protect themselves from distraction thefts by being cautious & vigilant of their surroundings in stores/parking lots and individuals need to shield their PINS when making purchases or withdrawing money."

If anyone has information regarding any crime, they are asked to contact the St. Albert RCMP Detachment at 780-458-7700 or their local police. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.P3Tips.com or by using the "P3 Tips" app available through the Apple App or Google Play.

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Last edited: October 15, 2019