SHOPPERS at a major retail chain have been warned of a new theft scheme that could cost them thousands if they are not careful.
In the Anaheim Hills neighborhood of Anaheim, California, a customer fell victim to a new method of retail theft, police determined.
At Ralphs, a popular grocery store in the southern part of the Golden State, shopper Cheryl Armstrong claimed she was a victim of the “distraction” theft method in early September, according to Los Angeles reports. KTLA.
The “distraction” method of theft is reportedly occurring with two criminals, one of whom targets an unsuspecting customer and strikes up a conversation with them to divert their attention from an unattended purse, bag or wallet.
Armstrong explained that she picked up her groceries from the Ralphs location in Anaheim Hills and unloaded them in the back of her car.
She then placed her purse on the passenger side of the vehicle and was about to get in to drive away when an unknown man allegedly yelled for her to stop.
The shopper claimed the man approached her and said someone had previously scratched her vehicle and he had observed it.
“As I was going to put my cart in the corral, a man who was up there said towards the market, ‘My lady!’ “Someone hit your car with a shopping cart,” Armstrong told the outlet.
According to her, the man approached her and pointed out the scratches – which apparently distracted her from an accomplice who was trying to steal items from her purse in the passenger seat.
Armstrong said she drove away without realizing that her phone, which contained her debit and credit cards, had been stolen and used to make thousands of purchases at a Best Buy down the street.
Surprised and confused, Armstrong told KTLA the situation was “very frustrating.”
According to the news station, the diversionary theft scheme is reportedly an ongoing problem in Southern California.
Another similar situation occurred at another Ralphs in Irvine, about 14 miles south of Anaheim.
This time it was caught on video courtesy of the Irvine Police Department.
The clip showed an elderly woman shopping while her shopping cart sat unattended nearby.
As she looked away, a man quickly searched her purse to find her wallet before the shopper looked back.
The man quickly hid the item on the shelf so as not to appear suspicious, and they both left the area.
A short time later, a woman who allegedly worked with the man came and grabbed the hidden wallet from the shelf.
Police are investigating both thefts and have not yet confirmed any connection.
The man and woman involved in the theft in Irvine are still at large. Anyone with information is asked to contact Irvine Police by email at email@example.com.
Anyone with information about the altercation in Anaheim should contact authorities at 714-765-1900.
The US Sun has reached out to Ralphs for comment on the alleged thefts.
For more on retail theft, check out US Sun’s coverage of the big change Coles has made to crack down on thieves.
The US Sun also reports on Walmart’s “dystopian” method of preventing in-store theft.