The Regina Police Service is warning Regina citizens, especially seniors, of a recent trend in credit card thefts. The method used by the perpetrators involves a two or three-person set-up to distract and steal from the victim, typically an elderly person. This particular method has emerged as the common thread in at least seven incident reports received by the Regina Police Service since September, 2018. The trend started to emerge as RPS received four events in two days last September. Then it stopped; there were no more such thefts reported. Now, the Regina Police Service has received three more of these cases since January 31, 2018. Police believe the suspects may be travelling from city to city, in an attempt to avoid detection and prosecution. The stolen credit cards have been used in several western Canadian cities, with total losses in the tens of thousands of dollars.
These events occurred at, or near, grocery stores, department stores and drug stores, usually in the parking lots of the businesses. Here are the dates and locations:
- Sept. 13, 2018 – 4200 block Albert Street;
- Sept. 13, 2018 – 4500 block Gordon Road;
- Sept. 13, 2018 – 2100 block Prince of Wales Drive;
- Sept. 14, 2018 – 3800 block Albert Street;
- January 31, 2019 – 3900 block Rochdale Blvd.;
- Feb. 11, 2019 – 2100 block Prince of Wales Drive; and
- March 12, 2019 – 2000 block Park Street;
Here is the “typical” case, drawing from circumstances that have been reported in most of these theft cases:
- The victim is an elderly person, in their 70’s or even 80’s;
- In six of seven cases, the victim is female;
- Victims report having made a purchase inside the store, and feeling that the next person in line was standing too close. We believe the person “standing too close” is a suspect who is “shoulder-surfing”, that is, standing so close that he/she sees and memorizes the victim’s PIN as she is making her purchase;
- Once outside the store, the same suspect calls out to the victim, saying that a $20.00 bill on the ground must have dropped accidentally from the victim’s wallet;
- The victim turns, distracted, and the suspect insists on helping to put the 20-dollar bill into the victim’s purse or wallet. We believe, at this point, the theft of the victim’s debit and credit cards occurs;
- It isn’t until later that the victim realizes the theft and, by the time she/he reports the crime, the credit cards have already been used, sometimes in another city;
- In two cases, the distraction technique used by the suspect was to approach the victim’s vehicle, pretending there was something wrong with a rear tire. In one of these cases, the victim got out of her vehicle, and a second suspect opened the car door and stole her credit card;
- Suspect descriptions vary slightly; sometimes it’s two middle-aged males, sometimes they are accompanied by a young adult female. Victims report that the male suspects speak English with a heavy Eastern European accent.
The Regina Police Service is investigating each of these incidents. Anyone who sees suspicious behavior of this sort is asked to contact police immediately. Anyone who has information that could help solve these crimes is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).
Identifying and charging criminals is always our goal, but it’s also worthwhile to encourage citizens to take steps to prevent crime. If you are a senior, or you have older family members who could be the target of these criminals, take a few minutes to review how and where you carry your wallet, credit cards and other valuables. In a store, make sure you shield the PIN pad with your free hand. It’s not impolite to tell someone else they are standing too close; if it’s an honest mistake, they will apologize and give you the privacy you need to keep your PIN and other financial information secure.