Waterloo Regional Police Service Warning Residents after Receiving Several Reports of Distraction Related Thefts

Waterloo Region, Ontario The Waterloo Regional Police Service continues to investigate reports of distraction-related thefts within in the Region, and are looking to identify individuals in the attached images.

Over the past several months Waterloo Regional Police have received thirteen reports of fraudsters targeting elderly victims in what’s known as ‘shoulder surfing’.

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

Victims, most of whom were over 70 years of age, were targeted while making purchases at department stores or grocery stores in Waterloo Region. After entering their PIN to pay for items, the victims were approached in parking lots by individuals who attempted to distract them. Often, the fraudsters would suggest that the victims had dropped money. They would then encourage the victims to open their wallets and, within seconds, the fraudsters were able to steal their bank or credit cards. The suspects would then use the stolen cards to make purchases and/or cash withdrawals, using the PIN they had obtained earlier.  Several victims reported that they didn’t realize they were a victim until they attempted to use their card again. By that time, the fraudsters had made purchases or withdrawn thousands of dollars from their account. 

Similar incidents have occurred in other jurisdictions throughout Ontario and the Waterloo Regional Police Service is working with other police services, in attempts to identify the suspects. 

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 extension 4438. If you have any information regarding any fraudulent activity, please report it to police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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