Police investigating theft of cell phones, warning online buyers to beware

Lethbridge Police are advising the public of an increase in cell phones being stolen from retailers then listed and sold to unsuspecting buyers online.

In cities throughout the province retailers are being targeted by groups of youths and young adults who enter the store, distract employees and steal cell phones. Locally, police are investigating an incident February 7, 2020 where fives males entered the Telus store in Park Place Mall and stole multiple display model phones worth approximately $9,000. The subjects fled through the mall and left in a vehicle. Investigation has determined the subjects drove out of the city. The investigation is ongoing to identify and locate the males.

Police are advising businesses to be aware of the swarming tactics being used, report suspicious activity and call 911 immediately in the event an incident occurs.

Anyone buying a phone using online classified ads, auctions or marketplace sites are advised to always ask the seller for the phone’s serial number or the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number before they proceed with any transaction. Every smartphone is equipped with a unique 15-digit IMEI number that can be checked online at www.devicecheck.ca. This free service will show whether the phone has been reported stolen or is blacklisted.

When using online sites to purchase goods, police recommend buyers and sellers meet in a public place such as the Safe Exchange Zone in the parking lot of the LPS station, if possible bring a friend or family member, thoroughly inspect the merchandise before exchanging funds, do not give out personal or banking information and use common sense -  if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A photo of the subjects in the Feb. 7 incident is included for release.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 403-328-4444 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be submitted online at www.p3tips.com.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Staff Sgt. Pete Christos, Criminal Investigation Section, will be available to answer questions today at 1:45 p.m. at the station. This will be the only opportunity for on-camera interviews.