Police in the Washington region are warning bank tellers about a thief they have dubbed the "Wig Lady."
Authorities say a short, well-dressed middle-aged woman has been walking into banks in Montgomery County, Md., and the District of Columbia wearing wigs and other accessories to impersonate account holders.
She has stolen more than $200,000 from the checking accounts of at least 20 women since September, said Montgomery police Detective Brandon Mengedoht, who calls it one of the most brazen schemes he has investigated.
To pull it off, police say the woman first deposits a random check she has made out to the account holder, and through that transaction obtains the victim's account number.
Then, sometimes that same day, she uses fake or stolen identification and the victim's stolen debit card to get the teller to process a withdrawal. By the time the original check bounces, she's gone.
"She's friendly, personable," Mengedoht said. "She wants to get in with the teller."
The thief's hair looks old-lady white in some surveillance photos, black in others, with several shades in between. The youngest victim is in her 30s, and the oldest is in her late 80s.
Investigators believe the female suspect is apparently just one of many involved in an organized pick-pocketing ring, which has already claimed more than 20 victims across the Washington region, Doug Buchanan of CBS station WUSA reports.
Investigators think at least one man is directly involved in the wig scheme because he appears in the background of some videos investigators have reviewed.
"They're going after checking accounts," Mengedoht said. "She's going to the bank as fast as she can and withdraws as much money as fast as she can."
"Their personal bank information is used and their personal identity is used to access their banks to obtain money from their bank accounts," Mengedoht told CBS News.
One of the victims, Margaret Kohn, 58, believes her wallet was stolen in March while she was riding the subway into the city.
Later that day, one of her credit-card companies called wanting to know whether she had used the card to pay for gasoline. The purchase was suspicious because she had never used the card to pay for gas.
By the time the lawyer notified her bank and other credit-card companies, one of her credit cards had been used to charge $670 at a Target store in District Heights, Md., and to fill up a couple of gas tanks.
Almost a week later, Kohn realized her personal and business checking accounts were missing $14,000.
Another victim told CBS News she believes her purse was picked by a member of this team at a restaurant as she was eating lunch with a friend.
"I didn't feel as if I was in a crime area. So it was just a random theft," she said.