THIEVES have been targeting lone women shoppers over 60 in supermarkets and cafe.

Cheshire Police say offenders are known to visit cafes and supermarkets, seeking women who appear to be on their own.

The warning is particularly directed at women aged 60 and above, who have been the subject of the thefts more than other age groups.

Thieves will often be working in pairs or groups, with one distracting the victim while the other steals from them.

Community Support Officers will be patrolling public areas, cafes and supermarkets, but police are keen to remind the public to also be on their guard.

Supt Peter Crowcroft said: “These thieves are driven by opportunity and target women aged 60 or over who are on their own in a café or in the supermarket.

“To help deter thieves and provide reassurance to the community, officers will be carrying out regular patrols and giving advice to local shops.

“I would also encourage the public to make elderly friends and neighbours aware of these thieves and purchase purse bells if possible, which can be a great deterrent.”

You can help to protect yourself by not leaving your handbag hung over a shopping trolley or unattended at any time.

Make sure it has a secure zip fastening and for added security, store your purse inside a zipped pocket out of the reach of thieves.

If you are approached by a stranger in unusual circumstances in or around a supermarket, do not engage with them, particularly if they ask for directions or change.

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Be firm with them, walk away and report any suspicious activity to the police.

When using a chip and pin device or ATM, always shield your number with your hand and avoid using cash machines where groups of people are hanging around.

Anyone who sees anyone acting suspiciously or has any information should contact Cheshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.