Essex Police call for vigilance following distraction thefts
POLICE are urging shoppers to keep their bags and purses safe and secure in car parks following a spate of similar thefts in North West Essex. In the last few months there have been six reported incidents where unidentified suspects have distracted a shop
POLICE are urging shoppers to keep their bags and purses safe and secure in car parks following a spate of similar thefts in North West Essex.
In the last few months 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.
Essex police inspector Mick Pitcher said: "We have had six crimes of this type reported to us since early December, so thefts using this precise modus operandi are rare.
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"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.
"We also suspect that the criminals may be watching people using ATMs, to try to read their PIN numbers as they type them in.
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"So, I would also ask members of the public to be aware and alert when withdrawing cash from a cash machine."
He added: "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."
One of the thefts happened in Great Dunmow's Tesco car park last month when a woman described how she had been duped by a man and woman couple.
Other thefts have occurred in Chelmsford, Halstead, Witham, and Stanway.