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Police issue warning after string of thefts targeting grocery shoppers

Police say eight people in Waterloo region have reported having their purses or wallets stolen while grocery shopping between Feb. 9 and Feb. 21. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Police say eight people in Waterloo region have reported having their purses or wallets stolen while grocery shopping between Feb. 9 and Feb. 21. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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Waterloo regional police have issued a public warning after a string of distraction thefts at local grocery stores.

Police say between Feb. 9 and Feb. 21, eight people reported having their purses or wallets stolen while distracted by small talk or questions – either inside a grocery store or shortly after exiting.

In one instance, a victim was shopping at a store near Ottawa Street North and Lackner Boulevard when someone asked them about a food product.

When the victim turned back toward their shopping cart, someone allegedly unzipped their purse and took their wallet.

The stolen credit card was then used to make multiple purchases totalling around $3,500.

Police say the “fraudsters will take advantage of anyone,” but it appears they’re specifically targeting women over the age of 70.

HOW TO AVOID DISTRACTION THEFTS

Police have issued these tips to avoid distraction thefts:

  • 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
  • If someone is crowding you in a checkout line, don’t be afraid to ask them to respect your space
  • If you are unnecessarily bumped or crowded, be aware that a distraction theft might be occurring and check your valuables
  • Keep your personal items in sight while shopping, and do not leave any items unattended
  • Be cautious if someone offers to help you bag or carry items you have purchased
  • Report any suspicious activity to police

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