Kingston Police investigating string of ‘distraction-based thefts’

Kingston Police have released a series of images captured through security cameras and are asking for the public’s assistance to identify the people involved in scheme referred to as “distraction-based thefts.”

On Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, Kingston Police issued a media release noting that they, as well as police services in neighbouring jurisdictions, have seen “a recent rise in distraction-based thefts.”

“Multiple theft and fraud-based reports have been submitted to police by victims who have unwittingly fallen prey to unscrupulous criminals,” police said.

According to police, most of these thefts have occurred in Kingston, and have generally occurred at ‘big box stores’ and grocery stores. The thefts involve the suspects “attempting to perpetrate some form of a ruse in order to distract members of the public.” Once a victim is distracted, another suspect will steal their wallet or purse.

“The suspects then attempt to make large purchases with stolen credit cards and/or withdraw funds from the victim’s bank accounts,” Kingston Police explained.

“The suspects generally acquire the PIN numbers for the victim’s debit/credit cards by standing unnecessarily close behind them at the checkout and within eyeshot of the PIN pad. Stealing PIN numbers can also be accomplished by the suspect pretending to be on their cell phone when they are behind the victim at checkout while actually using the phone to take video of them entering their PIN code for a purchase.”

Police said that the suspects involved in these thefts are often described by victims as having had what sounded like an eastern European accent, or other “noticeably strong accents.”

“These suspects are primarily transient and will attend and target one community prior to moving on to another location,” Kingston Police said.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspects pictured is asked to contact Kingston Police at 613-549-4660. Those with information who do not want to disclose their identity can contact the Kingston Police general number (613-549-4660 ext. 0) and request to remain anonymous.

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