Palo Alto police are investigating a Thursday morning "jewelry swap" crime in which a woman's necklace valued at more than $1,000 was stolen by a couple who stopped to ask her for directions in a Walgreens parking lot, the department said Friday.
Police said the victim, a woman in her 60s, had just parked her car in the Walgreens parking lot at 4170 El Camino Real at about 10 a.m. and had exited the vehicle when a sedan with a male driver and a female passenger pulled up to her. The woman in the car reportedly asked her for directions to the freeway, police said in a press release. When the woman responded, the passenger then motioned her closer to the car, thanked her for her help and placed a ring on her finger, police said. The woman reportedly returned the ring and backed away.
Police said the passenger then got out of the car and put a necklace around the woman's neck, apparently as a gesture of gratitude. She then got back into the car, a white sedan, and they drove away while the woman left the area. When the woman returned home, she realized that her gold necklace was removed from her while the woman was putting the new necklace on her, police said.
The woman was not injured during the encounter. She called police and described the two suspects as 50-60 years old and possibly of Indian descent, according to the police. The man had a black beard, she said.
Police said that no similar jewelry swap crimes have been reported to police recently in the city. The most recent such case occurred in May 2022, and there were two others before that date back to October 2021, according to the news release.
Police recommend that adult children and caregivers of elderly residents make them aware of the scam and that residents be cautious if approached by a stranger or occupants of an unfamiliar vehicle.
Anyone with information about Thursday's theft is asked to call the Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984.