Dear Editor, 

I would like to reply to the letter from Patricia, concerning distraction theft in the Algarve, in last week’s edition.

I am very sorry to learn from your correspondent that she was the victim of distraction crime whilst she was shopping in Algarve Shopping, and thank her with her warning to others. As she rightly points out, these types of crimes usually involve two people, one to cause the distraction itself and the other to steal the item.

When thefts of credit/debit cards are involved, the criminal needs to know the pin number. I suspect in this case the criminals saw the number being entered upon payment of the goods at the checkout, waited for the opportune moment and then stole the handbag containing the debit and credit card. As Patricia stated, they wasted no time in purchasing goods using the stolen card.

Distraction thefts normally take place in crowded stores or supermarkets. The reason for this is that customers who may have queued for some time are naturally eager to pay for the goods and leave the store as soon as possible, and the last thing on their minds is distraction theft. To avoid becoming a victim, it is important to keep your hand over the pin reader when entering the number and to check people are not observing you close by. Some supermarkets are now placing their card readers towards the end of checkout counters away from those in the queue, which is added security. 

Distractions can take place by simply one of the two criminals asking you for directions or perhaps water on a hot day in a supermarket carpark, to offering assistance to you in some way when you are loading your car. Some of these involve the theft of handbags placed on shopping trolleys. Whatever the method, the one thing in common is that the criminal is clever in seizing opportunities where people can easily be distracted, so please be aware of any strangers who may approach you regardless of their apparent good intentions. 

If you do become a victim of distraction theft, even before calling the police, call your bank immediately and report this. Usually criminals try and use the card within a few minutes of the theft.  

I hope with the details given to the Algarve Shopping security, they will inform all shops to be aware of this, and from the description given to police they will be caught soon. 

More on this subject can be found on under “Crime Prevention”

David Thomas
President, Safe Communities Portugal

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