Police say 30 separate incidents of jewelry scams have been reported so far this year.
Vancouver police issued a warning Thursday about a rise in jewelry scams on the city’s east side.
The scammers typically use sleight-of-hand distraction techniques to steal valuables from unsuspecting victims, or by trading fake and worthless jewelry in exchange for cash.
“Every spring, we see an increase in these types of crimes as the days get longer and the weather improves,” said Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison. “The exponential growth since January is extremely concerning.”
He says investigators have seen a five-fold increase in jewelry scams since the beginning of 2021, from three in January to 15 in March.
Thirty incidents have been reported to Vancouver police so far this year, and there are likely dozens that have gone unreported.
“These thieves succeed by overwhelming their victims with the element of surprise, or by convincing them to go against their better judgement,” said Addison. “Usually, by the time someone realizes they’ve been tricked, the scammers are long gone. This makes catching them and charging them very difficult.”
Some recent incidents:
• A 57-year-old man was sitting at a bus stop near Main Street and East 41st Avenue in January when he was approached by a man and woman driving a black Toyota Sienna. The couple had three young children in the car and said they were desperate for money to get back to Montreal. They convinced the unsuspecting victim to withdraw $3,000 from the bank in exchange for handfuls of fake jewelry.
• A woman was walking near Kingsway and Joyce Street in February when a brown sedan pulled up beside her. A woman got out of the passenger seat, approached the 63-year-old victim, and put a chain around her neck. The victim refused and told the woman to go away. An hour later, the victim realized her necklace was gone.
• Earlier this month, a 56-year-old woman was walking her dog near Fraser Street and East 33rd Avenue when a woman got out of a car, approached her, and claimed the victim reminded her of her dead mother. The scammer tried to put a fake necklace around the victim’s neck, then hugged her. While doing so, the suspect removed the victim’s necklace and bracelet. The victim went home and told family members, but by the time police were called the suspects were long gone.
Vancouver police are urging residents to remain vigilant, not to let people enter their personal space, and to report all encounters with jewelry scammers so police can search the area for suspects.
“The best thing we can do to prevent jewelry scams and distraction thefts is to understand how these thieves operate, to avoid falling victim, and to call police right away,” said Addison.
Crimes in progress can be reported to 911.