Police are urging the public to be mindful of a recent increase in two common scams in Durham Region.
The first scam is known as Distraction Theft. The fraudster approaches an unsuspecting victim and tells them they dropped an item such as money or they ask for directions. While the person is distracted, a second suspect will approach and pick pocket their wallet and/or bank or credit cards from a purse or pocket. Prior to this, someone else has been watching the victim shop and either observed or video recorded them as they used their PIN number. As women often carry a purse they are commonly the primary target; seniors are most often targeted, according to police.
As a precaution, try to carry cash and debit or credit cards separately, keep your purse closed and always be aware of your surroundings while using a point of sale terminal and an ATM, and while approaching your vehicle.
This reminder comes one day after police released images of suspects in a reported distraction theft in Whitby.
Police say on Jan. 25, a male suspect approached a male who was in line at the Freshco store on Brock Street South. The suspect handed a $5 bill to the male and said he must have dropped it while paying for his groceries. The male took the money and thanked the suspect. While the male was loading his car in the parking lot, the two suspects approached him. The male suspect was upset and said the $5 was actually his wife’s money. The victim took out his wallet and returned the money. During the discussion, one of the suspects was able to steal cards from the male’s wallet without him knowing. The suspects used the male’s debit card at an ATM at the RBC branch across the street.
Suspect #1 is described as male, aged 55 to 60 and wearing a green jacket with a black pocket.
Suspect #2 is described as female, aged 55 to 60 and wearing a black coat with fur trim and a black hat.
The second scam police are warning about is known as the Grandparent or Emergency Scam. A fraudster will contact a senior by phone and claim to be a grandchild who is in trouble. With great urgency the victim will be instructed to send large amounts of cash via money transfer. The victim may receive additional calls requesting additional funds. The victim is instructed not to tell anyone.
In a recent case, the victim was told by the “grandson” that he needed money that day as he had been charged for distracted driving. The victim was advised to have the money by a set time and someone would then attend their home to pick up the cash. Luckily the financial institution intervened moments before any address information or cash was exchanged. Police were not called during this incident.
The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to contact a family member to confirm the whereabouts of the loved one claiming to be in trouble. Never give out personal information, including banking, telephone number and address. Do not send money.
Anyone with information about these types of incidents is asked to call DRPS at 1-888-579-1520. Anonymous tips can be made to Durham Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222 TIPS (8477) and tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.