Guelph police are urging the public to be more alert while shopping following a string of distraction thefts in the city and surrounding areas.
Police say they’ve received reports of several thefts where culprits approach an elderly victim in a store, getting just close enough to see them entering their PIN number at the cash register, then follow them into the parking lot where the victim is distracted and typically a wallet is stolen.
According to police, the first of these reported incidents took place on Feb. 8 when an elderly woman was shopping at a location on Woodlawn Road West. Following her day of shopping, she discovered that her wallet had been taken and her bank account had been emptied.
Further investigation into the matter led police to determine that a woman created a distraction at the checkout counter, allowing a male suspect to move into a position where he could observe the PIN pad as the victim was paying for her purchases.
The accused then followed the victim to her parked vehicle and engaged in another conversation, telling her she had a flat tire, allowing another member of the group of alleged culprits to take the victim’s wallet out of the vehicle.
A similar theft occurred a few weeks later on Feb. 20 on Stone Road when another elderly victim received an alert that one of her cards had been used at locations in Guelph and Kitchener, with charges totalling over $3,000.
When the victim checked her purse she discovered that her wallet was missing, and video surveillance from her trip to the Stone Road location showed three men distracting her while observing her PIN and then removing her wallet from her purse.
These types of thefts came to light earlier this week when an identical theft plot took place in Fergus where an 82-year-old woman was distracted at a store on David Street by three men who stole the wallet and emptied the victim’s bank account of $15,000.
Guelph police have provided photos from surveillance footage of the two latest incidents and ask anyone with additional information to come forward.
Anyone who recognizes any of these individuals is asked to contact Const. Adams at (519) 824-1212 ext 7419 or Const. Stanley (519) 824-1212 ext 7371 or anonymously with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).