Maryland Blogger: Thefts from Shopping Carts Alert

Thefts from Shopping Carts Alert

Thefts from Shopping Carts Alert 


Perfect Targets for Thieves - Senior Citizens

This alert was provided by Officer Kim Jones with the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department

The reason distraction thieves focus mainly on senior citizens is because they are more trusting of strangers and less likely to engage in a physical altercation with a thief if he or she is caught in the act. Distraction thieves mainly target women because most carry handbags, which are easier to steal, and it’s easier to take a wallet from a handbag than pick a man’s pocket. In supermarkets and major discount stores, women tend to put their purses in shopping carts. Distraction thieves generally look for large handbags that are open at the top. Zipped handbags or those that have a snapped fold-over flap are usually avoided if the thief only wants a wallet. However, distraction thieves have been known to take the handbag if they can’t get only the wallet. It only takes a matter of seconds for distraction thieves to get your handbag or purse and leave the area.


How Thieves Operate Inside Stores

One distraction thief approaches a likely target, always from an angle that forces the soon-to-be victim to turn away from her handbag in a shopping cart to address the stranger. The thief will ask the target a seemingly innocuous question; possibly for an opinion on a product, where a certain item can be located, or another question that will divert the victim’s attention for a few seconds. During that amazingly short amount of time, the distracter’s accomplice will dip into the target’s handbag, remove the wallet, cell phone, credit card, checkbook, and anything else of value, and slip away. Most victims never see the accomplice, and by the time a victim realizes the loss, both thieves are long gone.


Prevention Methods

If you carry a handbag when shopping, use one that has a zipper or snap-flap closure. More importantly; never let your bag out of your sight especially when it’s in a shopping cart. If you turn away from your shopping cart for any reason, pick up your handbag and hold it in front of you. A handbag with a shoulder strap is a good choice, but never let the bag hang on the side behind an arm because a stealthy pickpocket can easily remove your wallet. An ideal method of preventing theft would be to carry cash, credit cards, and a driver’s license in a front pants pocket.

In today’s society, it’s a shame that good citizens have to remain alert even in the most mundane of everyday situations, but crime is a reality and law-abiding citizens need to be aware at all times.

If you are victimized, call the police immediately and give a detailed description of the thief or thieves. Also, notify management if you are inside of a business. Besides dealing with the monetary loss to distraction thieves, as soon as possible, the victim should notify his or her bank and credit card companies. Then the victim has to deal with replacing his or her driver’s license, insurance card, vehicle registration, and any other important piece of identification that was stolen.

Unfortunately, victims of distraction thieves have little chance of retrieving their stolen property, so the best way to keep from becoming a victim is to be ever-vigilant and on-guard. Be wary of strangers, no matter how “normal” they seem. Professional thieves prey on the kindness of others.


Dahlia, Ed Kuhn (?), National Capital Dahlia Society Show, Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, Maryland USA IMG 3109 Canon PowerShot G11 Camera Photograph by Roy Kelley  Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Dahlia, Ed Kuhn (?), National Capital Dahlia Society Show, Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, Maryland USA IMG 3109
Canon PowerShot G11 Camera
Photograph by Roy Kelley 
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Roy Kelley and Associates


Roy Kelley, Associate Broker

Realty Group Referrals (Retired from RE/MAX Realty Group)

6 Montgomery Village Ave., Suite 200

Gaithersburg, MD 20879

Main Office:  301-258-7757 (You will not reach me at this number)

Send an email message if you need my phone numbers. I will be happy to recommend a real estate professional if you are moving to the area.

Comment balloon 18 commentsRoy Kelley • June 27 2018 04:38PM


Thank you for the advice. I often keep my handbag in the shopping cart. 

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) 8 months ago

Thanks for the heads up, Roy.  This is an issue that should be widely disseminated so that all folks could be alerted.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) 8 months ago

Roy, this has become a true issue, and have not taken a purse into a store for quite a while, just my credit card.

Posted by Joan Cox, Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time (House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373) 8 months ago

Another gorgeous dahlia, Roy. This shopping card/handbag scam has been around for a while and these are great tips not just for seniors, but for anyone who carries a handbag. We had a little rash of these a few years back, but haven't heard much about it more recently.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) 8 months ago

Good morning Roy. If those that got caught got more than a slap on the wrist from liberal judges, it would be less of a problem. Until the 12th of never we all need topay attention! Enjoy your day.

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) 8 months ago

Good morning Roy Kelley,

It's a good message to get out because you can't be too viligent these days. Unfortunately this shopping card/handbag scam has been around for a while and is still happening! 

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) 8 months ago

Hello Roy,  I know it is a problem in lots of stores out here.  Never understand why people just don't get a job!


Posted by Will Hamm, "Where There's a Will, There's a Way!" (Hamm Homes) 8 months ago

Hi Roy- Many years ago when I'd just started working a kind lady saw me shopping in the market and warned me about leaving my purse in the car. Since then I've tried to pass her warning on to others I see in the market. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 8 months ago

Roy it is sad that people are so bad that they have to steel from trusting and helpless people I attribute it to poor parenting and drugs....Endre

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) 8 months ago

My wife has finally gotten into the fanny pack with the bag up front

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) 8 months ago

Great warning tips Roy Kelley I am amazed at the number of times I see shoppers walk away from their carts "browsing" with their purse open for the taking.

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) 8 months ago

Oh gee, isn't this awful. Good information to get out to the public Roy!

Posted by Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400, Long Island Home and Condo Specialists (The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803) 8 months ago

Good afternoon Roy - this is a very important heads up.  It is sad that people take advantage of seniors.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) 8 months ago

Older people are targets for scams and thieves. They tend to be more trusting.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) 8 months ago

Thank you for the heads up Roy. This something we should be aware of.

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority! (RE/MAX Northwest.) 8 months ago

A sad commentary that vigilance is the watch word of the day.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 8 months ago

Thank you very much for your comments. It is always good to hear from you.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) 8 months ago

Do you have a student going into MCPS 7th grade this fall? Do you know the immunization requirements? Find out what you need to know and see where you can get those immunizations through the County at:

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) 8 months ago