‘A switcheroo with the keys’: B.C. man warns about emerging trend in car theft

Click to play video: 'Surrey man says car stolen in key switch theft' Surrey man says car stolen in key switch theft
Surrey RCMP are investigating after a young father put his vehicle up for sale online only to see it disappear hours after a couple test drove it. Kristen Robinson has more on the trick the seller suspects the car thieves used – Dec 15, 2019

A Surrey, B.C. father is warning private vehicle sellers about a trick he suspects two would-be buyers used, after he discovered his car had been stolen hours after a test drive.

Kyle Pruden listed his 2005 Chevy Cobalt for sale on Craigslist in early December, hoping to raise some extra cash to give his seven-year-old son Marcus, who lives with autism and a bone condition, a great Christmas.

“My son is having surgery in early January so I’m going to need some money for that too,” Pruden told Global News.

READ MORE: Vancouver police warn of new scam: fraudsters presenting themselves as Vancouver police

Soon after the ad was posted, Pruden was contacted by a couple who wanted to take the vehicle for a test drive.

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Since the car is too small to accommodate Marcus and his wheelchair, Pruden no longer drives or insures it, and keeps it parked in one of his building’s visitor spots.

On Sat. Dec. 7, he met the man and woman at his housing complex in Newton. The couple took the vehicle for a spin in the parking lot before returning it to its previous spot in visitor parking.

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Pruden says the pair told him the Cobalt, priced at $1,200, was perfect for their 16-year-old daughter who had just gotten her licence and that they would be back the next day to buy it.

“I even lowered the price a couple hundred dollars so they could afford it,” said Pruden.

But the prospective buyers never closed the deal, and Pruden says hours after the couple informed him they’d changed their minds about the purchase, his car went missing.

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Even more shocking, a neighbour’s security camera captured the alleged crime.

READ MORE: Vancouver police warn of ‘smooth-talking’ con man targeting seniors

Just after 3 a.m. on Mon. Dec. 9, surveillance footage shows two people approaching Pruden’s black Chevy sedan, then opening the door and starting the ignition.

“They come up to my car, [and in] less than a minute, it’s gone,” said Pruden.

“About 20 seconds, they get in the car… and it’s off.”

Pruden says he soon discovered the car key he’d given the couple for the test drive was not the same one returned to him.

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“I didn’t realize at the time that they had given me a different key to a different car,” said Pruden.

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“The key looked exactly like mine but unfortunately, it wasn’t.”

Feeling duped, Pruden called the couple and demanded an explanation.

“They used foul language to me,” Pruden told Global News.

READ MORE: Fraudsters use fake dial tone, phony cops to allegedly defraud Vancouver seniors of $3.1 million

“‘Why would we steal your $1,200 car?’ and then they said some swear words and hung up.”

Pruden has no idea whether the potential buyers used their real names, but he gave their information and contact details to Surrey RCMP, who confirm they are investigating the alleged car theft.

“That was a scam,” said Pruden. “I’ve sold cars in the past and never heard of anyone pulling a switcheroo with the keys.”

Even police had never heard of this type of theft occurring, he said.

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The surveillance video that captures possible suspects is part of the ongoing investigation, say Surrey RCMP, who are warning people to be vigilant.

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“It is important that the public are aware of the ways that criminals are operating and they keep up-to-date with emerging trends such as this,” said Const. Richard Wright.

Young Marcus has a message for the suspects who took off in his Dad’s vehicle.

READ MORE: From bomb threats to handcuffs, police warn scammers growing increasingly aggressive

“I want to tell them that they’re gonna be on Santa’s naughty list,” said the seven-year old.

Pruden says he’s learned a hard lesson in the worst of humanity, but hopes sharing their experience will help prevent others from getting scammed.

“Especially right before Christmas, that’s kind of heartless,” Pruden told Global News.

“Be careful. Somebody that could be the nicest people in the world, could steal literally in the middle of the night.”

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