Vancouver police warn of distraction thefts

Police in Vancouver are warning the public to remain vigilant after an elderly woman lost her necklace in a targeted distraction theft.

The woman, 88, was approached by two strangers at Slocan and East 29 Avenue in the city’s Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood.

Officers say the suspects overwhelmed the woman by talking loudly and quickly, and were able to swap out her expensive necklace for a fake one.

They then fled the scene in a nearby car, police add.

This type of crime is being called a “distraction theft” by police, and often targets elderly people in residential areas. The targets of the thefts are often jewelry, money or other valuables.

Due to their expedient nature, police say the thefts can often be difficult to investigate because victims don’t realize they’ve been targeted until some time after the thieves have fled.

Police say common distraction theft scenarios include a stranger approaching you, touching you, or giving you a hug. While you try to figure out if you know the person and what’s happening, the thief makes their lift. Other common ploys include the thief showing you fake jewelry and putting it on you to swap it out for your real jewelry, or offering to sell you fake jewelry for money they make it seem like they urgently need.

To protect yourself, officers recommend not allowing strangers in your personal space, yelling to attract attention if you think you’re being targeted, calling 9-1-1 if you feel someone is acting suspicious and writing down the license plate of the car that belongs to that person to give to police.

They add thieves almost always travel in cars, often with others, and sometimes with small children or babies.

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