As warmer weather approaches and outdoor activities increase, the Montgomery County Police Department is warning citizens to be aware of Pigeon Drop schemes and distraction thefts.
Since November 2011, detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department have investigated several incidents involving what is termed the Pigeon Drop scheme. A Pigeon Drop can take on many forms. One example of a Pigeon Drop is when a victim is approached by a suspect in a public area such as a parking lot. The suspect claims to have found an envelope, a bag, or a wallet containing a large sum of money. The suspect asks the victim if the envelope, bag, or wallet belongs to him/her. When the victim says that it does not, the suspect engages the victim in a conversation about the found property. At this point, a second suspect approaches and joins the conversation, and one of the suspects suggests that all three split and keep the money.
After an agreement is made to split the money, the suspects make up an excuse as to why everyone involved needs to put up a certain amount of money to show that they are committed to splitting the money. Usually this is more money than the victim has with him/her, and the suspects persuade the victim to withdraw money from his/her bank account to put up as “collateral” or in “good faith”.
An example of an excuse used by the suspects is that one of them has an appointment to go to very soon. It would be agreed that the victim and the other suspect would give the departing suspect the “good faith” money to hold until the group can reunite and properly split the money. After the victim withdraws funds from his/her bank account and provides the funds to the departing suspect, the second suspect devises a plan to separate him- or herself from the victim. Once out of the victim’s sight, both suspects disappear with the “found” money and the victim’s money. In some cases, the victim is left with what he/she believes is the “found” money. Later, the victim discovers that a switch was made, and the victim has been left holding worthless paper.
The suspects in Pigeon Drop schemes vary in gender and age and are sometimes well-dressed and articulate which makes them appear more trustworthy. Suspects frequently claim that they have connections to, or know someone with connections to, a bank or other financial institution. Suspects who participate in the Pigeon Drop scheme are often intelligent, persuasive, and aggressive. These suspects hope to confuse and overwhelm victims to convince them that there is a sense of urgency to make quick decisions. Remember, if it seems to be “too good to be true”, it probably is.
Police realize that many victims may be hesitant to report such a theft as they may feel embarrassed that they have been tricked. Police urge victims to report these thefts as it the only way that police will know that these incidents are occurring in the community. Not reporting such thefts perpetuates the scheme as the suspects target more victims in the community.
Police are also warning residents to be aware of distraction thefts in which the suspect(s) will attempt to distract the victim before committing the theft. In these cases, the suspect will approach a customer at a grocery store or retail store and distract him/her with a question about a product. Meanwhile, a second suspect will steal the customer’s wallet from his/her shopping cart. The victim will likely not realize that his/her wallet was stolen until reaching the cash register to pay for merchandise. By this time, the suspect(s) have fled and may be using the stolen credit cards to make purchases at nearby business establishments.
The Montgomery County Police Department is offering the following tips to help eliminate the opportunity of becoming a victim of this type of theft:
· For men:
o Avoid carrying your wallet in your back pocket. Thieves will generally avoid stealing a wallet from a front pocket.
o Avoid carrying large sums of money, several credit cards, or several forms of ID in your wallet.
· For women:
o Avoid carrying your wallet in your purse or use a purse that is difficult to open.
o When carrying your purse, keep it closed and in front of your body.
o Never leave your purse unattended on a store counter or in a grocery cart.
· For all:
o Consider photocopying the content of your wallet in order to know exactly what was obtained should your wallet be stolen. # # #
Contact: Media Services Division Phone: 240.773.5030