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Don’t get caught by this ‘distraction theft’ scam

June 12th, 2018

Recent reports of thefts from seniors in the Edmonton area have prompted the Alberta Seniors Communities & Housing Association (ASCHA) to issue a safety reminder to seniors living in residential communities. The organization has received six incident reports within the last couple of weeks; four of which appear to be related. 

Woman claims she's waiting for her friend

In the four related incidents, ASCHA reports that a woman has been entering seniors’ residential buildings under the pretense of visiting a friend. Instead, she knocks on a resident’s door asking for something to drink while she waits for her 'friend' to return to her nearby suite for their planned visit. When the resident goes to fetch the coffee or water, the stranger steals the resident’s wallet. Her cell phone then rings and she tells the resident her 'friend' has just called to say she is back in her suite, and leaves.

It can be hours or even days before the resident discovers his or her wallet is gone and credit cards have been used.

Don't let strangers into your suite for any reason

“It is very important to remind residents to not let strangers into their suites for any reason… and to keep valuables safe at all times,” says the ASCHA warning. If an unknown person is waiting to visit with someone, they can wait in the foyer of the building (which, if you feel compelled to offer kindness to strangers, would be a good place to bring them that glass of water). Report any suspicious events.

Distraction thefts

These thefts are a variation on a scam police refer to as ‘distraction thefts’, where light-fingered perpetrators pretend to give something, like a pin or pendant to a stranger, while actually removing the victim’s quality jewelry, or picking a wallet from a pocket or purse. Police across Canada are warning about an increase in distraction thefts, and that seniors are increasingly being targeted.

Avoid becoming a victim of distraction theft

The Toronto area Peel Regional Police have come up with some guidelines you can follow to avoid becoming a victim of distraction theft. These tips are most applicable to public areas, while ASCHA’s ‘no strangers in your suite for any reason’ is still the best advice for residential security.

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