Eight distraction thefts in Vancouver and Abbotsford; police want seniors to be alerted

VANCOUVER Police are warning the elderly to be vigilant after receiving reports of six “distraction thefts” in South Vancouver in just two days.

All six cases involve a suspect getting out of a vehicle, and approaching an elderly woman who is on her own. After a brief conversation, the thief makes physical contact with the victim and, in most cases, swaps the victim’s expensive jewelry with inexpensive jewelry. The victims were not aware that their jewelry has been taken until after the thief left.

The six incidents occurred on March 20 and March 21 between 3 and 5:30 p.m. The victims were approached on a sidewalk or in a yard. The suspect has been described as a short, heavy-set woman, with a dark, olive completion, and a round face, 40 to 50 years old, and wearing a white shawl.

“We are encouraging family and friends to tell seniors in our communities about this scam,” said Sgt. Jason Robillard on Friday. “Remind them to be very cautious if someone enters their personal space.”

Anyone who is approached by these suspects is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately. Anyone with information about these crimes, or victims who have not yet made a police report, are asked to call VPD investigators at 604-717-2541.


MEANWHILE, Abbotsford Police Department is investigating two distraction-style jewellery thefts that also took place this week.

Both victims in Abbotsford were elderly and were walking in their neighborhoods with their grandchildren. In both instances, a vehicle stopped and a female passenger asked the victim for directions to the hospital. After directions were provided, the female exited the vehicle and made an excuse to place jewellery on the victim. While doing so, the suspect discreetly removed the victim’s own expensive jewellery.

The female suspect in both Abbotsford thefts is described as South Asian or Middle Eastern in appearance, 50-60 years old, with a heavy build and black hair. The male driver is described as South Asian or Middle Eastern in appearance, 20-30 years old, with black hair.

Abbotsford Police say there has been a noticeable increase in similar distraction-style thefts in other Lower Mainland municipalities in recent weeks. The descriptions of the suspects and their vehicles vary, so it is possible multiple thieves are working as a group.

The Abbotsford Police Department is requesting that family members alert seniors or those visiting or new to our community about this ‘switcheroo’ type scam.  Abbotsford Police recoomend that you conceal valuable items under your clothing when in public, and not allow strangers into your personal space.

If you are approached by a stranger and you feel threatened:

  • Clearly tell the person you are not interested and to leave you alone.
  • Draw attention to the situation.
  • Call 911 and report the incident to police.

Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to call AbbyPD at 604-859-5225, or text us at 222973 (abbypd). To report anonymously to Crime Stoppers, call 1-800-222-8477(TIPS) or report online at solvecrime.ca.