Police Warn of Pigeon Drops, Distraction Thefts - NBC4 Washington

Police Warn of Pigeon Drops, Distraction Thefts

Police encourage residents to lookout for warm weather crimes



    Police Warn of Pigeon Drops, Distraction Thefts

    The Montgomery County Police Department wants residents to be on the lookout for two popular springtime crimes, pigeon drop schemes and distraction thefts.

    Detectives have been investigating incidents of these crimes since November, according to Montgomery County police.

    "Pigeon drop" is a term for tricking victims into putting up money for something of great value when in fact that item does not exist.  

    According to police, in a common pigeon drop scheme a victim is approached by an individual who claims to have found a large sum of money.

    The individual inquires as to whether the money belongs to the victim and begins a conversation, later to be joined by a second individual secretly in coercion with the first.

    The victim is tricked into keeping the money and splitting it between all three people, providing a particular amount of collateral, police say typically more than the victim has with them, in order to show they are committed to the split.

    After the victim has put up their share of money, which police say often requires them to withdraw additional funds from their bank account, the two suspects figure out a way to ditch the victim with one of them holding on to the money and promising to “reunite and properly split the money” later, according to police.

    Sometimes the victim is given the "found money” to hold on to but later “discovers that a switch was made and the victim has been left holding worthless paper,” police said.

    In distraction thefts, victims are similarly approached by an individual who questions them and takes their attention away from a valuable item like a wallet, police said. A second individual will then steal the wallet while the victim is distracted.

    According to police, both types of theft take place in public areas. In pigeon drop schemes, suspects “vary in gender and age and are sometimes well-dressed and articulate which makes them appear more trustworthy,” police said.

    Police encourage citizens to remember that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” and offer tips to ensure that fewer people are victimized. For men, police sayid not to carry large sums of money and not to put their wallets in their back pockets. For women, police said to keep purses close to the body and never leave them unattended.

    Police added that victims should always report these crimes and that not doing so “perpetuates the scheme.”