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Northamptonshire Police is urging members of the public to be vigilant when out and about following a spate of distraction thefts in the county.
Since June 13, there has been six reported distraction thefts which have taken place between 10.20am and 3pm in supermarket car parks in Kettering, Rushden, and Wellingborough.
In each incident, a lone woman has been approached in the car park and informed her car has been damaged. Whilst checking over her vehicle, her purse or bag has been stolen and bank cards fraudulently used.
Carole Jones, Crime Prevention Team Leader, said: “It takes a really unscrupulous person to follow a vulnerable person around a store, waiting for the right moment to steal their handbag or purse.
“Unfortunately, these people do exist, and often use distraction techniques to get what they want.
“This can involve bumping into victims - something which causes them to be flustered and unaware someone has stolen from them. Or it can involve working in pairs with one person distracting the victim while the other steals from them.
“It’s worth making sure you read the tips below in order to best prevent yourself from becoming a victim and making sure any elderly people in your life are aware of these tips as well.”
• Attach a bell to your handbag so you can hear if it is moved
• Never hang your handbag on pushchairs or shopping trolleys
• Keep your bag firmly closed, with the flap against your body
• Remember thieves can use cards to make contactless purchases, so report the loss of your cards immediately to the card issuers
• Protect your pin when using your card or withdrawing money from an ATM, and do not keep your pin number in your handbag or purse
• If you feel you’re being watched or someone is acting suspiciously, inform the store security or customer service desk
• Check your car for any obvious signs of damage prior to driving away and once inside, ensure doors are locked and windows closed
• If someone knocks on your car window, do not open it, or get out of your car. Either pick up your mobile phone to give the impression you’re calling for help or start driving away slowly
If you have witnessed, been a victim of crime or want to report an incident, please call 101 or report online at www.northants.police.uk.
Always call 999 in an emergency and where a crime is in progress, or someone is in danger. Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
For more crime prevention advice visit www.northants.police.uk.