“We have been seeing a lot of women’s purses stolen while they are out shopping,” Pell City Police Detective Jonathan Swiney said. “It’s been a frequent problem over the last several months.”
Swiney said in most of the cases, the purse was in a shopping cart.
“Having your purse in the shopping cart is the number one way of having it stolen that we’ve seen,” he said. “Either the whole purse or stuff in the purse was stolen.”
Swiney said the thieves are targeting elderly women, but said anyone carrying a purse should take proper precautions while shopping.
“We had one lady who had her purse in the front basket of a sit-and-shop cart and was sitting in it, and one thief distracted her while another thief stole items from her purse,” he said.
Swiney said it is easy to become distracted while out shopping.
“I recommend that if you are going to carry a purse, wear it over your shoulder and keep it zipped,” he said. “I would suggest that instead of carrying a purse, carry a small wallet with your cash, driver’s license and debit or credit cards in it and keep it in your pocket.”
Swiney said if you take a purse with you shopping and decide to leave it in your vehicle, the best place is in the trunk.
“Don’t leave it in plain sight, and even covering it with a jacket isn’t a good deterrent,” he said. “Put it in the trunk out of sight.”
Swiney said thieves will walk around parking lots looking into vehicles until they see something they want.
“Don’t leave cell phones or GPS units or electronic devices in plain view,” he said. “Those easily sellable items are very tempting for thieves.”
Swiney said the Police Department is conducting increased patrols in shopping areas during the holiday season.
“If you are going to shop online, you need to use good antivirus software on your computer, as well as use trusted sites,” he said.
Swiney said the most common way user information is being stolen is through viruses that sit dormant on your computer until it recognizes you inputting a credit card or debit card number or other personal information, then copying that information and stealing it.
“You can get these viruses through email or on websites,” he said. “The viruses may not affect the way your computer runs, so be sure you have and run good antivirus software. There may be nothing wrong with the site you are shopping on, but your identity could still get stolen from that virus on your computer.”
Swiney said in most of the identity theft cases he sees, the virus originates outside this country, which makes it hard to track and prosecute.
“Nigeria, Mexico and India are the three big hot spots right now,” he said.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.