Vancouver police are warning the public to be wary of strangers offering jewelry after several seniors were recently overwhelmed and tricked by con artists who approached them on the street.

The Vancouver Police Department said Friday that there have been seven reported cases of distraction theft in the last several days — cases that echo more than 60 others since Dec. 2012 in which vulnerable seniors were robbed of more than $88,000 in valuables.


Con artists use sleight of hand and distraction techniques to cover up their theft. Police say don't let strangers into your personal space.

Police say the con usually starts with a thief finding a potential victim who is wearing gold jewelry.

Police say the thief "approaches the victim, appeals to their ethnic background and overwhelms him or her by talking and placing fake jewelry or a scarf around the victim’s head, neck or wrist.​"

The thief then removes the victim's jewelry, leaving behind the fake jewelry or a scarf. The victim is often disoriented by the encounter, and the thief is usually gone from the area by the time the victim notices their valuable is missing, police say.

Vancouver police say the suspects in these recent cases are both men and women of varying ages, with medium to dark skin. The women often wear flowing dresses and scarves. Sometimes, the thief leaves in a waiting car.

VIDEO: Vancouver police show how the distraction theft works

Police tips to protect against this type of theft:

  • If you wear jewelry in public, conceal valuable items under your clothing.
  • Don’t allow anyone you don’t know into your personal space.
  • Tell the person that you are not interested, and for them to leave you alone.
  • Draw attention to the situation by calling for help.
  • Call 911 and report the crime to police.

Source: Vancouver Police Department