Three unknown people in a vehicle waved over a nun in a Markham parking lot last month asking for a prayer for a dying family member before allegedly stealing valuable jewelry off her person.

The incident, along with other similar distraction thefts happening in the city, has prompted York Regional Police to issue a warning to the public to be “careful when speaking with strangers.”

In the June 18 encounter, which was caught on camera, a small black SUV approached a woman in a parking lot on Risebrough Circuit at around 1:30 p.m.

According to investigators, a woman in the vehicle told the victim she needed her to pray for a dying family member before placing a large chain necklace around the victim’s neck and a ring around her finger as a “gift to say thank you.”

In the video, posted online by officers on Wednesday, the victim is seen hugging a person inside the vehicle before waving as it drove off.

The victim then realized the gold necklace she was wearing prior to the interaction was gone.

The female suspect has been described by police as a woman with a heavy build, who is believed to be in her 30s. She has long, dirty-blond hair and was wearing a white-flowered long-sleeve shirt at the time, officers said.

One of the two male suspects has been described by investigators as having tanned skin, short black hair and a short black full beard. No description for the final suspect has been released by police.

In a news release explaining this incident issued on Wednesday, investigators said they have received reports of “recent incidents” where unknown suspects “engaged victims in conversation and placed a necklace or a bracelet around the victim’s neck or wrist at the same time removing the valuable necklace or bracelet the victim had been wearing.”

“The suspects then leave the area,” officers said.

Safety tips provided by police advise residents to do the following:

  • Be cautious engaging in conversation with strangers that approach you in public
  • Conceal your valuable jewelry if it must be worn while out in public
  • Consider hiding your jewelry while walking in public then putting it on once you have reached your destination
  • If you witness any suspicious people or activity, contact police immediately

Anyone with further information regarding distraction thefts in the area are urged to contact investigators at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7451 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).