A woman who fell victim to a distraction theft in Guelph, Ont., on Tuesday wants to warn others so it doesn’t happen to them.
Mary Carley, 73, says her wallet was stolen from inside her car after someone pointed out fluid was leaking from her vehicle. She says she was sitting in the passenger seat of the car which was parked in the Market Fresh plaza at Norfolk and Paisley streets when a man wearing a medical mask walked up to her window.
“He pointed at this tire and said ‘I think there’s something leaking here,'” Mary told Global News on Friday. “I got out and he said ‘look down in there’ and I went around and had a really good look. I had my finger in there, I was smelling the fluid and looking at the pattern of the spray.”
Unbeknownst to Carley, while she was looking, her wallet was swiped from her purse on the passenger seat of the car. The man who pointed out the fluid took off.
Carley then waited for her husband to come back from running errands in downtown Guelph and a check of the fluid levels caused no concern. The two then drove back to their Rockwood-area home.
After a further check at home, Robert Carley told his wife she may have been scammed.
“I ran in the house and opened my purse. Sure enough, the wallet was gone and they had dug into the purse to remove it,” she said.
Guelph police and Carley both said there was an oily substance sprayed on the rear driver’s side wheel. Carley believes it was cooking oil or WD-40.
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She also estimates that the entire ordeal took less than a minute.
“I was so surprised,” she said.
The wallet contained credit cards, debit cards, a health card, driver’s licence and $30 cash.
Carley called her credit card companies and bank to cancel her cards and also notified Market Fresh and Guelph police.
Luckily the thieves weren’t able to withdraw any cash even though they allegedly attempted to take out $1,000 at a bank near Eramosa Street and Stevenson Street a few minutes later.
She said the whole experience felt invasive.
“Particularly around the safety issue on the car, having sprayed it intentionally. It arouses concern of course and we’re all in a hypervigilant state of COVID-19 already,” Carley said. “I was fooled, I was taken aback, I fell for it. I was concerned about it actually –having it happen to other people as well.”
Guelph police have contacted the neighbouring jurisdiction about the case and said there have been similar incidents recently.
“It appears more mature adults are targeted in these incidents,” police stated in a news release. “We would like to remind the public to be very cautious and vigilant when approached by someone they don’t know.”
Police have released surveillance photos of two men wearing medical masks and would like to speak with them.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the lead investigator at 519-824-1212 ext. 1212 ext. 7117. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.