Never Pick This Up Off the Floor at the Grocery Store, Police Say in New Warning
You can take active steps to protect yourself from a new scam.
Grocery shopping is generally a pretty low-stakes excursion. You head in, toss what you need in your cart, pay, and walk back out. But these stores have also become a common spot for crime, and with so many people coming in and out, thieves have a wide selection of victims to target. Now, police have issued a new warning due to a rise in a specific scam at grocery stores, and are sharing what you can do to protect yourself. Read on to find out what the authorities say you should never pick up off the floor at the grocery store.
There's been an uptick in crime at grocery stores.
Throughout the summer, the increase in assaults and shoplifting incidents at supermarkets and retail stores was a major concern, The New York Times reported. Employees feared for their safety at work, with some calling for armed security guards to prevent attempted theft.
But aside from just stealing merchandise, thieves are also stealing from shoppers. On Sept. 19, police in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania issued a crime watch alert due to an increase in "distraction theft" at grocery stores. According to police, one suspect distracts a victim—often a woman who has left her purse open in her cart—while another suspect takes her wallet. Victims don't even realize their wallet is missing until they're at the register, and by that point, their credit cards have already been used "to make thousands of dollars in purchases" at nearby stores, the Bethel Park Police Department said.
This isn't the only tactic that thieves use, however, as they're trying out another crafty con.
Thieves try to make you feel like it's your lucky day.
On Sept. 30, police in Elkhart, Indiana issued a warning about a new scam involving "found" bills at grocery stores. According to a public safety alert posted on Facebook, the con is similar to the distraction scheme used in Pennsylvania, but this time, they're targeting victims at self-checkout.
At a local grocery store, suspects will drop a $10 bill at a victim's feet, the warning states. "They then point out the money to the victim, distracting them," the warning reads. The suspect then stands close to their target "so that they can see the victim's pin number as [the] victim enters it at self-checkout."
But the scam doesn't end there, as they still need to get ahold of the physical debit card.
This con has two distinct phases.
The second part of the scam continues in the parking lot, according to the Elkhart Police Department (EPD).
"The suspect then follows the victim out to their vehicle, and a second suspect approaches and tells the victim that the $10.00 belongs to them," the Facebook warning reads. "The victim gets distracted, and the victim's debit card is lifted out of their purse or wallet."
Armed with the debit card and pin number, thieves are able to "rack up fraudulent charges on the victim's card."
You can take a few proactive steps.
While the latest scam is designed to disorient and distract victims, you can take action to keep yourself protected, police say. To protect your card from being stolen right at at the self-checkout machine, police say you should never leave the store without ensuring that your credit card has been removed from the key pad.
As for general safety measures, the EPD warns shoppers to "be aware of your surroundings," especially when using your debit or credit card while people are near, and to shield the key pad when entering your pin. If you believe you are being targeted either inside the grocery store or in the parking lot, EPD stresses that you should alert a staff member or call the police directly.
No matter how tempting it may seem, the EPD says that you should never pick up money that someone points to on the ground. Instead, opt to walk away.
But that's not the only reason you should just leave cash when you stumble upon it. In June, police in Giles County, Tennessee also issued a warning about picking up folded money on the ground, after unsuspecting people found powder inside that later tested positive for both methamphetamine and fentanyl.