On August 8, 2013, a woman asked to use the restroom at a Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania gym, but it turns out this was all a ruse. Her real intention was to steal gym bags. She then used car keys she found in the gym bags to break into cars, allowing her to steal credit cards. She tried to use the stolen credit cards almost immediately at a nearby shopping mall.
This scam is made possible by the fact that keys to newer cars are remotely controlled. By simply pressing a button, the car will flash its lights and make a honking sound. Just as it makes it easy to find your own car in a big parking lot, it also makes it easier for a thief to steal your keys and quickly locate your car. In the past, someone trying to perpetrate this scam would have to look for the same make of car as the stolen keys. Obviously, this would be a much more tedious process, making it more likely to attract attention.
At my gym, people hang their keys on a key rack. I always thought it would be easy for someone to steal a set of remote controlled keys and then steal a car right out of the gym parking lot. I never stopped to think that a thief could also commit the much less serious crime of theft from a motor vehicle by employing a variation of this scam.
The suspect remains at large. When she is caught she will be charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property and access device fraud. If she signed a victim’s name after using a stolen credit card, she will also be charged with forgery.
I say “when” she is caught rather than “if,” because there is a still photo image of her, which has been published by local media. Someone will turn her in. In my experience, the type of people who pull this type of scam tend to have made a lot of enemies. They usually have ripped off and double-crossed quite a few people over the years. It won’t surprise me if multiple people she has wronged end up calling the police.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. He limits his practice to criminal law matters. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Theft-and-Property-Crimes.shtml