This past summer, investigators were alerted to a rash of stolen debit cards resulting from a group of fraudsters.
Most often the crimes were committed in local stores and parking lots. The fraudsters managed to watch their victims punch in their debit card password when paying for an item. It’s called shoulder-surfing and that is why in nearly every crime presentation we do, we take a moment to remind people to always cover the keypad when entering their pin. These crimes happen more than you might think.
Once the victim had left the store and was in the parking lot the suspects (often a male and female working together, but occasionally just a single suspect) would engage the victim near their vehicle and distract them. The distraction would involve pointing out money on the ground or a possible flat tire.
Sounds quite neighbourly, except that when all was said and done the victims discovered their wallets were gone … pickpocketed. Its one of the reasons we carry our wallets in our front pockets and always remind the women we know to make sure their purses are zipped up.
To lose your wallet, including your ID and any cash you had in there is problematic unto itself. But now, armed with the pin number they managed to get in the store, the thieves were able to hit other financial institutions using the cards and pins to steal even more money.
Sounds like a caper you might see in a movie, but sadly frauds and scams like this do happen all too often in our community. We’re grateful to have an amazing team of investigators in our Financial Crimes Unit who solely work on frauds and scams. The problem is, however, they do not become involved until AFTER the crime has occurred.
To be certain, the members of the Winnipeg Police Service do our utmost to stop crimes before they happen. We work in the Crime Prevention Section and we spend the bulk of our time presenting on Crime Prevention and Awareness to groups across Winnipeg.
We also work closely with our Public Information Office to share timely information with the community on crime trends, and we produce E-watch a weekly email newsletter that offers timely tips on crime prevention and community awareness. Small but important steps in creating a culture of safety for all in Winnipeg.
Time and again we say crime prevention starts with you. It’s about awareness. Gone are the days when frauds and scams “happen to other people”. The criminals are getting more savvy and we all would be well served to stay aware and mindful of crimes of opportunity.
By reading these columns you are taking an important first step and we thank you for your commitment. We hope you will help spread the word and talk with your friends and neighbours about crime prevention. Everyone thinks it could never happen to them until it does. (We work with a fellow who has had his own bank card skimmed.)
Please know we’re here to help and share information so you can lesson the likelihood of being victimized.
Interested in having a Police Officer to provide a presentation to your group?
We’d love to help.
Through TakeAction, a program designed to enhance community safety by educating citizens on easy, practical steps they can take to develop a personal safety strategy, we offer group presentations on a variety of topics including personal safety, frauds and scams and rug awareness to name few.
Visit Winnipeg.ca/takeaction on the internet, click on the Crime Prevention button and look for the Presentations tab.
You can also register for our weekly E-watch newsletter to learn more about crime trends and crime prevention. And of course, we post each day’s media releases on our Winnipeg Police Service Facebook page. Most days you can even watch the daily media briefings.
Through all of this, we encourage you not to be afraid. Rather we want you and your friends to be aware. Knowledge is power when it comes to crime prevention.
By Patrol Sgt. Phil Penner and Constable Garnie McIntyre are members of Crime Prevention Section, Winnipeg Police Service.