Police warning over distraction thefts

POLICE in mid and north Essex are urging members of the public to ensure that they keep their belongings safe and secure in car parks across the region.

POLICE in mid and north Essex are urging members of the public to ensure that they keep their belongings safe and secure in car parks across the region.

Since December 11, 2009, there have been six reported incidents where unidentified suspects have distracted a shopper in a car park, usually by asking for directions, whilst an accomplice has stolen the shopper's purse or bag from inside their car. The criminals have then used any credit or debit cards inside the bags that they have stolen to withdraw sums of cash fraudulently from ATMs, often within minutes of the theft.

Insp Mick Pitcher said: "Essex Police has had six crimes of this type reported to us since early December, so thefts using this precise modus operandi are rare.

“However, I would ask members of the public to be aware of this criminal technique, and to keep their valuables, such as bags and purses, safe and secure when they're in busy car parks - perhaps parking their car or unloading their shopping.


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"We also suspect that the criminals may be watching people using ATMs, to try to read their PIN numbers as they type them in.

“So, I would also ask members of the public to be aware and alert when withdrawing cash from a cash machine.

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“Try and make sure that your PIN number is kept private when entering it into the keypad and be swift to remove both the card and the money when they are returned to you."

Two of the thefts occurred in Chelmsford, with one theft taking place in Halstead, one in Witham, one in Dunmow and one in Stanway.

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