QUANTICO, Va. (December 1, 2014) – The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is warning the greater Army community about a new carjacking scam targeting unsuspecting holiday shoppers.
Criminal Investigation Command, commonly referred to as CID, special agents were recently alerted through law enforcement channels about a new ploy, where criminals use the lure of free cash as a distraction. The crime provides crooks a window of opportunity to swoop in and rob an unsuspecting victim of their belongings, including their vehicle.
“What we’ve heard is criminals will place a $100 bill, usually on an individual’s windshield under the wiper blade, and while the victim is distracted and gets out to retrieve the cash, the criminals use the element of surprise to approach the vehicle and rob the victim of their belongings and car,” said Special Agent Mark Kerr, a CID agent with Headquarters, Army CID. “It’s the perfect distraction during the holiday season, because everyone could use a little extra cash, especially if it’s free.”
According to the state of Maryland’s Attorney General’s Office the scam, initially reported to Prince George’s County law enforcement, has the potential to spread throughout the country. However, steps can be taken by the public to ensure their safety to combat this scam.
Kerr said that should anyone discover money on their vehicle, to quickly move to a safe, public location and to notify law enforcement or security personnel immediately. Lock your doors and do not get out of the vehicle to retrieve it.
The following CID recommended safety tips are provided to help ensure the greater Army community has a safe and secure holiday season:
• Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
• Park in well-lit areas and as close to the store as possible.
• Avoid becoming an easy target for thieves by not purchasing more than you can safely carry.
• Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car. If leaving a store late at night, and by yourself, ask security to walk you to your car if you feel threatened.
• Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to “shoulder surf” to get your account information.
• Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
• Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
• Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
• If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
• Always be alert and aware of your surroundings and do not blindly walk in public areas focused on your phone.
“It’s crucial that Soldiers, civilians and family members protect themselves throughout the holiday shopping season,” Kerr said. “Having a plan in the event of an emergency and being aware of your surroundings is the best way to keep from becoming a victim.”