Police: Shoppers beware of thieves preying on goodness of others

Apr 1, 2022, 6:36 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 12:34 pm

Shoppers Beware! That’s the message from several police agencies that are on the hunt for a group of individuals who are preying on the goodness of customers. One thief will distract the shopper while the other one moves in for the steal.

“You just never know who is in there trying to target people,” assistant chief Bill Robertson with the Saratoga Spring Police Department said. “These guys obviously had this planned.”

In Saratoga Springs the thieves stole from a shopper at the Smith’s grocery store and then minutes later went to the Walmart and used the stolen credit cards to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise. In Riverton it happened at Peterson’s Fresh Market and at the TJ Maxx Home Goods store. The suspects look different in the surveillance photos but police said method of operation is the same.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>and TJ Maxx/HomeGoods on the west side of town. One individual will distract a shopper and another will snatch a purse out of the distracted shopper&#39;s cart. Please be aware of this and be vigilant in keeping an eye on your purse &amp; valuables at all times while shopping. (2 of 3)</p>&mdash; Riverton City (@RivertonUtahGov) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RivertonUtahGov/status/1509571929706967046?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>March 31, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

“The person acted as if they were a little challenged in their ability to speak English or read English, and they held up a product and said can you help me read what’s on this product,” Chief Don Hutson with Riverton police said.

“Then another person would come around the other side out of view and take their wallet or purse (that is sitting in the shopping cart.)”

“He was asking for help and showing her a label of a juice bottle asking her questions,” Robertson said. “Someone came up behind once he was talking to her and took items out of her purse (that was in the shopping cart.)”

Investigators say the sad part of all this, the shoppers thought they were just trying to help out.

“We try to be helpful when somebody ask for help and then you become a victim of crime,” Hutson said. But it’s not just happening in Riverton and Saratoga Springs; police said there are also similar cases in Payson and other Utah County cities.

“They are out there and they are very active so we want to get the word out to the public,” Robertson said.

“It is not uncommon for groups of people, criminal enterprises to go out and victimize a particular area and move through the area,” Hutson said. The best advice: be aware of your surroundings and don’t put purses in shopping carts.

“We really just have to encourage people to be ultra-cautious and ultra-careful when they are out shopping to keep their eye on their valuables,” Hutson said.

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Police: Shoppers beware of thieves preying on goodness of others