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Distraction Thefts from Vehicles

Post Date:08/09/2023 12:58 pm

Recently, the Newport Beach Police Department has received reports of distraction thefts from vehicles that have typically been occurring in shopping center parking lots. The incidents often go something like this:

As you hop in your car and get ready to back out, two strangers approach you and point out that there is damage or something stuck to your car. You get out of your vehicle for a moment to examine the issue. While you are distracted by one of the strangers who is “assisting” you, the other accesses your purse that was left on the front seat and snatches your wallet. The strangers then disappear before you realize what has occurred.

Scammers and pickpockets operate by taking advantage of a moment when their victims are distracted. This often includes creating distractions (especially when they work in pairs or groups). They try to overwhelm you or divert your attention to create an opportunity to take your property. It is important to maintain situational awareness to avoid being the victim of a pickpocket or distraction theft.

Here are some recommendations for practicing situational awareness and preventing these types of distraction thefts:  

  • As you go about your daily tasks, pay attention to the people, objects, vehicles and events happening around you.
  • Limit distractions whenever possible.
  • Lock your vehicle whenever you step outside of it – even if you will be standing nearby (i.e. fueling up at the gas station, etc.). Remember that it just takes a split second while your back is turned for someone to grab your purse, wallet, cell phone or other valuables.
  • Never leave your keys in the ignition when you are not in the car. Take them out of the vehicle and lock your car whenever you exit your vehicle.
  • Valuables should be stored either where you can keep an eye on them or where they cannot be easily seen or accessed by others.
  • Be aware when you are approached by a stranger or when someone gets into your personal space.
  • Trust your instincts if someone or something is making you uncomfortable.
  • Whenever you are out and about, remember to not lose sight of your personal belongings.
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