Waterloo Regional Police Service Alerts the Public on Distraction Thefts

Waterloo Region, Ontario – The Waterloo Regional Police Service is alerting the public after receiving several reports of distraction theft-related incidents within in the Region.

 Since January 2019, we have received six reports of people falling victim to ‘shoulder surfing’.

‘Shoulder surfing’ occurs when someone looks over your shoulder while you are using your bank/credit card. Once the fraudsters have your PIN (Personal Identification Number) they then use distraction techniques to steal your card and use it with the acquired PIN.

In most instances, victims have reported that they were in a store making a purchase. Without knowing, someone was spying over their shoulder while they were entering their PIN while using a point of sale terminal. Once the victim left the store, a person approached them and tried to distract them. Within seconds, the victims lost sight of their personal belongings and their wallet, bank/credit card were stolen. The suspects would then use the stolen cards to make purchases and/or cash withdrawals, using the PIN they obtained earlier.

While these fraudsters will take advantage of anyone, it appears that the suspects are targeting the elderly. It has been reported that similar incidents have occurred in other jurisdictions throughout Ontario.

Waterloo Regional Police are reminding the public to be cautious and protect themselves by following these tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Shield your PIN as you make a purchase, or cash withdrawal at an ATM
  • If someone appears suspicious and randomly tries to engage in a conversation, pay close attention to your property
  • Keep your personal items within your eyesight while shopping, and do not leave any items unattended
  • Be cautious if someone offers to help you bag or carry items you have purchased
  • If you are approached in a parking lot by someone claiming your tire is flat, your vehicle is damaged, or you have dropped money on the ground, be vigilant as this may be a ploy to distract you and could lead to a theft
  • Report any suspicious activity to police

If you have been a victim of a distraction theft and have not yet reported the incident to police, please do so by calling 519-570-9777. If you have any information regarding any fraudulent activity, please report it to police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Media Inquiries

Ashley Dietrich
Public Information Officer, Executive Branch
Waterloo Regional Police Service
519-570-9777 (WRPS) ext. 8285


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