Omaha Police are reminding metro residents to be diligent when it comes to protecting their wallets and purses.
Police say in the last six months there have been at least 21 cases of pick-pockets in the Omaha area. Law Enforcement in a number of states have identified a group of individuals traveling throughout the Midwest stealing credit cards out of women's purses.
Authorities say most of the victims were at restaurants, with a few who were out shopping. The purses were left unattended, or hung on the back of a chair when they were targeted. In many instances, the suspects take the victim's wallet from the purse, steal the credit cards and then place the wallet back in purse, sans cards. The victim doesn't even realize the cards have been stolen until several hours later.
Police said after taking the cards, the suspects immediately go to nearby stores such as Target, Best Buy and Apple Stores and purchase thousands of dollars worth of electronics and gift cards. This happens before victims report their cards stolen.
In 16 of the 21 known incidents in Omaha, the victims were at an area Panera Bread when their cards were stolen. The other five were reported at Westroads Mall. Fraud detectives are working with Panera Bread and the Westroads Mall security to identify the suspects.
Here are some tips police say to remember to protect yourself from pick-pocketing:
- Carry your purse next to your body, under your arm, and with a strap over your opposite shoulder.
- After opening your purse be sure to close it up either by strap, snap, magnetic closure, or zipping it closed.
- Never leave your purse unattended or out of sight.
- Wallets and checkbooks should not be visible from pockets.
- When seated in a restaurant do not set your purse to the outside of a bench seat or hanging on the back of your chair (where it can be easily accessed by others)
- Place your purse on your lap or at your feet when seated – not directly under your seat where it cannot be seen.
- One way to maintain control of your purse and keep you from forgetting it: Place a leg through the straps and let it hang from your thigh while you are eating.