April 16, 2019 2:23 pm

Thieves using distraction techniques to steal jewelry off people in Edmonton

Photos of the fake jewelry used by suspects in distraction-style thefts in March 2019 in Edmonton.

Courtesy: Edmonton Police Service

Edmonton police are issuing a warning after several recent reports of people being robbed of their jewelry while being distracted by criminals.

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Police first warned of distraction-style thefts involving seniors back in March. But since last Thursday, police say they’ve received five additional reports of similar thefts across the city and investigators believe the thieves are now targeting people of all ages.

READ MORE: Seniors duped out of thousands of dollars by ‘distraction’ thieves

Police say the thieves typically approach complainants along the side of the road or in parking lots, using various tactics to distract them. In some instances, thieves reportedly approached citizens and attempted to sell them fake gold jewelry or asked to see the real jewelry they were wearing.

READ MORE: 11 romance scams in Edmonton led to $1.1M lost to fraudsters in 2018

On Thursday, March 7, police said an 86-year-old woman was in the parking lot of a business near 124 Avenue and 153 Street when she was reportedly approached by an unknown man and woman in a black Dodge Durango.

While speaking to the senior, EPS say the female suspect reportedly placed fake gold rings on the woman’s fingers and a fake gold necklace around her neck, while in the process removing the victim’s wedding ring and necklace that she was wearing. The suspects then allegedly drove away.

READ MORE: Video shows Edmonton man catching would-be thief in action, highlights growing problem

Three days later, on Sunday, March 10, a similar incident reportedly took place in the parking lot of a grocery store near 173 Street and Stony Plain Road.

A 75-year-old male reported to police that while attempting to get out of his vehicle, he was blocked by an unknown woman. She then reportedly placed fake gold jewelry on his hands and wrists and removed his gold watch, before quickly leaving the parking lot with an unknown man in a black SUV.

The fake jewelry used by suspects in distraction-style thefts in March 2019 in Edmonton.

Courtesy: Edmonton Police Service

In other instances, thieves have reportedly offered fake gold jewelry in exchange for money for gas. Thieves have also allegedly dropped money on the ground and then approached complainants to tell them they dropped the cash, offering to help them pick it up.

During each interaction, the thieves use sleight of hand to remove the complainant’s real jewelry or remove their credit and debit cards from open wallets.

READ MORE: Edmonton family begs for return of stolen heirlooms after 2 robberies in 2 weeks

Investigators believe the recent incidents are linked and may involve the same suspects.

Complainants have been approached by a man, a man and a woman, or two men: all of whom are described as having a dark skin tone, dark hair and heavy accents that may be Eastern European or Middle Eastern. One of the men was also described as having a beard or goatee.

In March, the woman was also described as wearing a full-length dress and a headscarf, and Edmonton police believe the suspects reportedly drove rental vehicles that may have been switched regularly.

READ MORE: Thieves targeting seniors in downtown area

Police are warning the public, in particular seniors, to be aware of their surroundings when in parking lots and to be extra vigilant if approached by strangers who are trying to give away or sell something.

Anyone who has been victimized in a similar way is encouraged to contact Edmonton police. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers.

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