ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The Sioux County Sheriff’s Department is warning of a scam the department describes as “simple-but-effective” that generally takes place at stores across the state of Iowa that they call “distract and dash”.

According to the department, in the scam, two people approach a shopper and one attempts to chat with the soon-to-be victim about store products. While the first person has the conversation with the shopper, a second person goes through the shopper’s bag to steal credit cards, cash and membership cards, such as cards for Costco or Sam’s Club.

The department said that once the second person has finished going through the victim’s bag, both scammers leave in a short period of time, sometimes within 20 seconds. Once gone, the scammers use the stolen credit cards to purchase gift cards which are then used to make purchases.

“Sometimes, those illegal purchases can be thousands of dollars,” the department said.

The department said that often the victim does not know they have had their purse gone through until they go to check out.

An important way the department said one can keep themselves safe is to be situationally aware. It is important to be wary of strangers at the store and the department recommends minimizing conversations with strangers.

The department recommends either carrying one’s purse or securing it to the grocery cart and closing all access points into the purse.

Individuals should also report suspicious people to store security or, if there is no store security, they should call the police to report the suspicious activity.