Cheltenham Crime

Distraction theft and how to stay safe from potential online fraud

A citizen in their 80’s was the victim of distraction theft outside of Tesco in Bishops Cleeve on February 15. The thieves took the victims bank card and left.

The incident took place between 11:30 and 12:00. The thieves are yet to be identified, but these images have been released from the incident to help bring forward witnesses and identify them.

Distraction theft is a crime in which someone steals something from another person after tricking them into giving their attention to something else. Women are usually targeted with this type of crime as they tend to travel with their belongings in handbags. Most victims being older in age.

The office for national statistics says that the most common items to be stolen are purses, wallets, money and mobile phones. The most common location where these thefts take place is on the street, although in and around shops and public transport were also common locations.

Stealth theft being crimes like pickpocketing, where the victim doesn’t notice they are being stolen from due to the careful and quiet nature of the thief. Distraction theft falls under this as the victim is distracted by one person in the pair whilst the other takes a persons possessions and leaves. Usually by one of the pair asking for help whilst the other steals.

Talking to Gloucestershire Police PCSO Mel Oliveira, she said that crimes of this nature can lead to cybercrimes like online fraud and the best thing to do is report it as soon as you realize you have been stolen from. Make sure to contact your bank house to freeze your account to prevent money being taken from you.

For Gloucestershire residents, you can join Your Community Alerts to keep informed of incidents in your area and have crime prevention and support from the police. You can sign up for this here.

For some extra advice, I asked Kim Mowday, harm reduction advisor for Gloucestershire constabulary what you can do if you see a case of distraction theft occurring and more importantly what he thinks you should do if you find yourself being a victim of distraction theft.

Kim Mowday, harm reduction advisor, Gloucestershire Constabulary.

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