Sherry McCoy

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or nbynews@juno.com.


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program


It’s November 2022, and that means that Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays are upon us! Soon, many of us will be out shopping for the best buys in holiday food and presents for friends and family. It’s a very busy time of the year (!!!) and quite easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by all the extra fuss and activity. Sadly, thieves are keenly aware of this, and are making plans right now – as we speak! – to take full advantage of this holiday frenzy to target seniors. Recent law enforcement reports indicate that “distraction scams” or “distraction theft schemes” are on the rise among seniors here in Southern California, as well as other parts of the country. So, let’s take a peek at what “distraction theft” looks like, and explore what we can do to protect ourselves from these heinous criminal endeavors.


There are many different types of “distraction scams.” All operate in much the same way. A team of thieves work together to steal your belongings or personal ID information. One or two con artists focus on “distracting” you, while other criminals in the team, proceed to steal from you, i.e., rob you.

Inside the Supermarket

For example, let’s say you’re in a supermarket in the produce section, when you are approached by another couple of shoppers, with perhaps a child or two running around. The shoppers ask your advice or opinion about the different types of lettuce — “Which one do you think is the best buy?” You get involved in the conversation, your focus is on helping someone out, and before you know it, the thieves, aka pickpockets, have stolen your wallet. By the time you go to checkout and discover your wallet is missing, the criminals have left the area and are charging items on your credit or bank cards to the tune of thousands of dollars!

Jewelry Thieves

Another example of a “distraction scam” that is occurring frequently in the Greater Los Angeles area involves teams of jewelry thieves. The thieves’ plan of action goes something like this — They approach you in a friendly manner and admire your jewelry (necklace, ring, wristwatch). They try to sell you some new jewelry, say, by putting a necklace around your neck. If you say you’re not interested, the thieves take back their jewelry ALONG with the necklace that you were wearing. The same strategy applies to rings and wristwatches. You may not even notice that your jewelry has been stolen till after the thieves are long gone! Law enforcement reports these scammers have stolen jewelry from seniors inside supermarkets, in store parking lots, on the sidewalk, etc. – even while sitting outside in front of your own house chatting with a friend! Per ABC7 Eyewitness News (see References below) —

“In one video posted to YouTube, two women are seen driving up and talking to two elderly women who are sitting in chairs on a driveway.


One woman strikes up a conversation with the victim, hugging her first and then showing her some fake jewelry, even placing a necklace over her neck. She leaves her with the fake jewelry but manages to remove the woman’s real jewelry without her noticing.”

In the Parking Lot

Recently, a friend of mine was the victim of a “distraction theft scheme.” My friend, which I will call Phyllis (not her real name) had gone shopping at a local grocery store and was in her car ready to leave for home, when she was approached by a nice-looking couple who asked her for directions. Phyllis rolled down the passenger window of her car to offer help. (NOTE: Phyllis’s handbag was on the passenger seat of her car.) But the woman opened Phyllis’s passenger car door and proceeded to open a map and place it over the passenger seat (and Phyllis’s purse) to show where she and her husband wanted to go. Unbeknownst to Phyllis, the woman’s husband was rifling through her purse, while Phyllis was showing the woman how to get to the destination. Not long after the couple left, as Phyllis was driving out of the grocery store parking lot, she received an urgent phone call from her bank’s fraud unit, notifying her that someone had tried to charge over $10,000 to her credit cards! All charges had been denied, with the exception of one charge for $1600, which eventually was reversed. The thieves had stolen 3 credit cards from Phyllis. All 3 cards had to be cancelled. – Fortunately for Phyllis, her bank’s fraud unit was on the ball!


One of the best ways to protect yourself from “distraction scams,” is to remain mindful of your surroundings at all times. Be present. Keep your mind focused on what you’re doing in the moment.

Keep your attention on your purse / wallet when out in public. Keep your purse zipped closed. Wear a slash-proof, anti-theft, cross-body purse or fanny pack.

Try to go shopping or on walks with a friend or friends. There’s greater safety in groups.

Don’t wear your jewelry in public; or, if you do, keep it hidden under your clothing.

Be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Be aware. Notice vehicles that may be following you or look out of place. Call 911 if needed.

If you are the victim of a “distraction scam,” report it immediately to the police.

And finally, as our SSSAP Educator, Ann Stahl, has suggested – “Don’t let your desire to be kind to strangers, distract you from protecting yourself!”


NOTE to Readers – If you or a friend or family member have been the victim of a “distraction scam,” and would like to share your story anonymously with other NOT BORN YESTERDAY! readers in this column, please consider writing to me at “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or nbynews@juno.com. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Be Empowered. Find Your Voice. Speak Out About Fraud!



Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.

For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.



“Thieves are targeting seniors, Glendale police say. How to avoid ‘distraction theft’”, LA Times, Summer Lin, staff writer, August 31, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-31/senior-citizens-targeted-thieves-distraction-theft-los-angeles-glendale


“Police warn senior citizens targets of ‘distraction theft’”, News Nation Now, Nancy Loo, August 31, 2022 (Updated Sept. 1, 2022), https://www.newsnationnow.com/us-news/west/distraction-theft-senior-citizens/


“Police warning about ‘distraction thefts’ targeting senior citizens in LA,” Glendale area, ABC7 Eyewitness News, Tim Pulliam, staff writer, August 30, 2022, https://abc7.com/distraction-thefts-elderly-crime-victims-glendale-police-jewelry/12182210/


“Warning: ‘Distraction Thefts’ on the Rise and Senior Citizens are Most Vulnerable,” Johnny Jet, Aug. 31, 2022,




SSSAP will be having their Peer-to-Peer Senior Fraud Education Program (free of charge) at the North Hollywood Recreation Center, 11430 Chandler Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601, on Saturday, November 19th at 10 a.m. The event is sponsored by Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Krekorian, Council District 2. Please contact Cairo Rodriguez, Field Deputy at (818) 755-7676 for additional information. We hope to see you there!


SSSAP continues virtual programs, and we are now booking in-person programs for 2022. Please contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com for more info, or if your organization would like to host our program.



We are proud to announce a new SSSAP video on Senior Fraud Awareness, sponsored by the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA). Click this link to watch it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVjSdUaoY9E


Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.


Remember – You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or nbynews@juno.com.



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