Well-dressed pickpockets targeting elderly women at stores

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Police are looking for a group of well-dressed gentlemen bandits preying on elderly women.

The victims are hit as they shop, and they never see it coming.

One victim was hit while shopping at the Federal Way Walmart on Nov. 26. Her wallet was stolen right out of her purse, even though she thought she was watching it.

"I did turn around in the bakery -- my sweet tooth got the better of me -- and I have the feeling that's when it was taken," she said.

Police say they've seen a rash of these crimes lately, all because shoppers get caught up in what they're looking for and don't realize crooks are looking at them.

"It's more of a crime of opportunity right now," said Lt. Kurt Schwan. "At this time of year, we have a lot of these things going on."

After the 80-year-old victim was hit at Walmart, store security zeroed in surveillance video on the man they believe is responsible for the grab-and-dash crime. Police have also obtained surveillance footage of similar incidents.

In these crimes, the crook takes the victim's credit cards, goes to another store and purchases Visa gift cards. Sometimes, they even buy a greeting card and tells the checker the items are for a family member. Police say that kind of chit-chat puts the clerk at ease, making the clerk less likely to check the name on the credit card. The crooks then move to other stores and start using the gift cards.

One victim was hit for $1,900 before she could get her cards canceled.

When she was shown photos of the suspect, she said, "I think I remember that cap. I think he's the one I saw walking down the main aisle."

The victim said she remembers him because he was well-dressed -- perhaps even too well-dressed for the store.

Police believe the thieves have also hit elderly women in Seattle, Kent, Mercer Island and Bellevue.