Sheriff Warns of Increased "Distract and Dash" Theft Incidents in Iowa

March 07, 2023 2:49pm

Scams Sign

The Sioux County Sheriff is warning of increased activity in the state regarding the “Distract and Dash,” scam/theft.  The theft/scam goes something like this:


Shopper in a grocery store, their purse is placed in the seat of the cart.

Two individuals approach and one of them engages the shopper with conversation about store products. The conversing first suspect usually places themselves between the shopper and their purse. While the shopper is discussing the selection of chips (or other product) with the first suspect, the second suspect quickly goes through the purse and takes credit cards, cash and membership cards to club-style stores. In Sioux County think nearby Sam’s Club, Costco, etc. The conversation ends and everyone parts ways; in some cases, suspects have committed the crime and left the area in less than 20 seconds.


Wallet 908569 340

Suspects leave and go to the club store and use the membership entry card and credit cards to purchase gift cards. Then, suspects purchase merchandise on the gift cards. Sometimes, those illegal purchases can be thousands of dollars. Often times, the unsuspecting shopper-victim does not discover the crime happened until they go to check out, which, in some cases can be quite a while after the crime.


While it’s not impossible for investigators to trace these purchases, it is complex and requires a large amount of time. There is also frequently an inconvenience placed on the original shopper as they work through the issue with credit card companies and law enforcement.


What can you do? Here are some prevention suggestions:


  • Situational Awareness – know who’s around you at all times and be wary of overly-friendly encounters when separated from your belongings.
  • Secure your purse to the grocery cart and close/zip all access points; better yet, carry your purse while shopping.
  • Keep your wallet hidden or in your pocket while shopping in areas where your attention can be diverted.
  • While we wouldn’t advocate rudeness, you don’t have to speak with strangers at the store. You can politely decline to engage with them and move on or ask them to give you space.
  • Report suspicious activity to store security immediately.
  • If no security is available, call 9-1-1; give us the time, location and physical descriptions of individuals you feel were acting suspiciously.