EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — Evansville Police say the holiday shopping season isn’t the only thing that is upon us — so is pickpocketing.

Local law enforcement has noticed a recent uptick in theft of wallets and credit cards, including the regular break-ins of parked cars.

“There are travelling crews of criminals who go from city to city utilizing a well-polished theft and fraud scheme,” says EPD on social media.

Authorities believe a group of two or three people have targeted women’s purses while they were shopping in retail stores.

Footage has shown one suspect will distract the victim while another involved quickly steals her wallet out of her unattended purse.

“Before the victim has time to notice the wallet is missing, the criminals have already immediately gone to another nearby retail store to purchase upwards of $20,000 in prepaid gift cards,” adds the police department.

Officers suggest that it’s likely the suspects immediately leave town and possibly never return, maybe even going as far as leaving the country several weeks later.

“The offenders are well-coordinated and well-practiced, utilizing several tactics that make them difficult to catch and difficult to prevent,” the police department also adds.

Officers with EPD say they are working with local stores and federal agencies to catch the criminals and make it more difficult to purchase a large amount of gift cards with stolen credit cards.

EPD offers these tips to avoid becoming victim of a pickpocketing theft:

  • Take extra care to secure purses and wallets while shopping – even something as simple as zipping the purse would be enough to deter some of these criminals.
  • Carry your purse or wallet on you while shopping
  • Absolutely never leave it unattended in your cart, especially if engaged in conversation by another shopper.
  • If you choose to leave your purse in your car, secure it in your trunk or somewhere else inaccessible to thieves who also target parked cars.

If your wallet is stolen, police suggest to immediately freeze the credit cards and contact 911.

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