Niagara police warn of rash of ‘distraction thefts’ after 10 incidents this month


Published March 16, 2023 at 7:31 pm

Niagara Regional Police have issued a warning amid a rash of “distraction thefts” after ten incidents since February.

According to police, the thefts usually begin in a store. Generally, a group of two to four people enter the store and fan out to find a victim.

Once they’ve identified a mark, the thieves then follow their target throughout the store until they go to pay for their goods. The thief will then “surreptitiously position” themselves with a view of the target using their debit or credit card to pay.

The thief watches the target input their PIN code. The one thief follows the victim to their car while the others in the group spread throughout the area nearby.

A point man waits until the victim sits in the car to leave and approaches the vehicle. Usually, the point man will tell the victim there is a problem the victim needs to exit the car to see.

Often this imaginary concern involves the car itself. Niagara police gave the example of a deflated tire. If the point man is successful, they will convince the victim they’re being helpful and the victim will exit the car to look.

At this point, a second thief swoops into the car from the passenger-passenger side and grabs the card, purse or wallet. Both thieves then flee the scene and rush to use the card as soon as they can.

Such thefts have occurred ten reported times since February, police say. As a result, they released a warning about the routine. Investigators say people should always be vigilant, take pains to hide PINs when inputting them and use tap when possible.

Additionally, police say, resident should lock their doors once in their car, and only crack the window to speak with anyone who approaches them.

“Anyone who feels they have been a victim of a distraction theft should report it to the police as soon as practicable,” police said, “Anyone with information about suspects involved in distraction thefts can contact the police by calling 905-688-4111.”

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