August 15, 2019 12:43 pm

Barrie police warning residents of distraction theft scam

Police say the scammers usually target a senior in line by moving into a position that allows them to see the PIN number the person enters when they make a purchase.

Nick Westoll / File / Global News
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Officers are warning Barrie residents about a local scam after two victims had their bank and credit cards stolen on Saturday morning.

The two victims were at the same grocery store shortly after 10 a.m., police say, and the thefts occurred less than 20 minutes apart.

READ MORE: Southern Georgian Bay OPP urging residents to lock vehicles to prevent theft

Police say the scammers usually target a senior in line by moving into a position that allows them to see the PIN number the person enters when they make a purchase.

The suspect then casually drops a $20 bill, tells the victim that they dropped the money and hands it to them.

The suspect approaches the victim outside the store, telling them the money actually belonged to the person behind them, which causes the victim to open their wallet.

As the victim opens their wallet, the suspect distracts them and removes their bank or credit card, officers say.

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The suspect then makes cash withdrawals and spends a lot of money, often purchasing prepaid gift cards, police say.

According to officers, a total of just over $5,000 in cash withdrawals and gift card purchases were made using the two stolen cards, all within close proximity to where the original thefts took place.

Police say local banks, stores and the grocery store are all assisting officers in their investigations by providing surveillance footage.

In both instances, officers say the suspect descriptions vary, with one victim describing the perpetrator to be in his 50s, while the other indicated there was a male and a female suspect, both in their 20s.

READ MORE: OPP warning residents after receiving reports of scams in Tay Township

According to police, other jurisdictions that have reported similar occurrences have indicated that there are usually a number of people involved.

It’s not known if the suspects have moved on, police say.

The investigations are ongoing.

Police say anyone with information can contact Const. Graber of the Barrie Police Service at 705-725-7025 ext. 2753, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

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