Jeane Welch (91) traveled from Estes Park to Longmont on Sept. 16 to shop for groceries at the King Soopers on Hover Street. Standing in the check out line, she was surprised to find her wallet missing, but believes she knows when it happened.

Welch needed eggs but there was a line of people in front of her. Waiting for the crowd to clear, she struck up a conversation with another woman. As the two women stood near the egg refrigerator, chatting, a young woman at the end of the aisle stood on a shelf in the center of the aisle and began waiving something in the air and shouting for attention. The young woman began asking questions about the store that no one nearby could answer.

Welch remembers the first woman she was talking to trying to help the woman but suggesting she talk to an employee. The young woman quite suddenly stopped asking questions, jumped down from the shelf and scurried off, Welch said. 

Welch and the other woman commented on how strange the entire interaction had been, then separated to finish their shopping. 

Welch journeyed to the checkout stand and discovered that her wallet had been taken from her purse. She contacted the store manager and he helped her find a solution for her $100 in groceries. 

Welch believes that the woman was working with someone else and the other person snagged her wallet while she was distracted by the woman waiving something and asking crazy questions, she said. 

Soon after, Welch’s phone began to ring. It was her bank contacting her to say that her credit cards and debit cards were being used in an attempt to purchase gift cards at Sam’s Club. There were three attempts in the amounts of $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000, Welch said. The purchases were denied by the credit card company and the bank.

“Here I am, 91 years old, and the bank knows how I spend my money. Here she (the suspect) is trying buy all these gift cards,” Welch said. 

Welch made her way to Sam’s Club to search through their trash cans in an attempt to recover her wallet. The wallet was cherished by Welch but more importantly, it contained her driver’s license, medical cards and other important information. Luckily, Welch said, she had just cleaned out her wallet and taken her social security card out. 

According to the Longmont Police Department, an unidentified woman was recorded on Sam’s Club’s security footage using Welch’s card at a self-checkout register. The woman was wearing a black hat, long-sleeved shirt and black pants. She had also used the membership of an unknown man while in the store.

Welch wants other people to know what happened to her in hopes that fewer people experience a situation like this. Welch now has to attempt to get her license renewed — something she is concerned about because of her age. She also worries that a mother who may be distracted by her children at the grocery store could fall prey to a similar theft. 

The Longmont Police suggests the following tips when shopping in a retail store:

  • Close your purse every time you go into a retail store.
  • Carry your purse or wallet on your person; do not place it in the cart.
  • If you take a wallet into the store, do not leave it laying in the cart. 
  • Consider bringing a carabiner and clip the purse or wallet to the cart.
  • If you do not have young children with you, use the child safety belt to fasten your purse in the cart. Zip or secure the bag closed.

Welch said she knows several older adults who are afraid to report theft to the police out of fear that the person who stole their property might come back to harm them. She said she isn’t afraid and wants other people to act in an effort to stop the theft happening in our communities.