Police warn of robbers targeting shoppers in South Bay parking lots

Local

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Authorities in the South Bay are warning of a string of gold scams and strong-arm robberies taking place in shopping center parking lots in Chula Vista.

They said scammers are targeting various parking lots in the region, especially Seafood City in Chula Vista, a Filipino supermarket, where at least six robberies were reported between June 16 and Oct. 13. Police say the alleged thieves typically wait for victims wearing jewelry to leave the store before luring them to their vehicles to buy or exchange gold.

But according to police, they instead swipe jewelry from victims – either forcibly removing it or by using sleight of hand techniques – before leaving the area.

“Mostly, there’s three guys in the van and then lately, they have two ladies,” said Tess Munar, who works at Seafood City.

Munar said the scammers have been showing up when the store is busy. And while police say the victims vary, she believes the thieves target Filipinos because she said it often is cultural to wear lots of jewelry.

“One of my customers – old lady – she said oh they got much from her because she got bracelet, necklace, earring,” Munar said. “She said ‘I felt like they knew me and I felt like got hypnotized and then they took me to their car’ she said and then when I get off the car I didn’t realize I didn’t have my jewelry,” she said.

That’s because the robbers are able to snatch the jewelry without the victim being able to feel it or sometimes they force them to take it off, according to police.

Police also said the scammers might have young children in their cars to help lure in the victim, asking them to buy the “gold” to help with money problems.

The victims are both men and women between the ages of 50 to 70.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Chula Vista police at 619-691-5151.

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