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Medford Police warn shoppers about wallet snatchers

The Medford Police Department is asking women to keep a close eye on their purses and wallets while shopping after someone snatched a wallet from an open purse and used the victim’s cards to make about $7,700 in purchases in less than 20 minutes.

The theft occurred Thursday. This wasn’t the first time such a theft has occurred in the city, however, said MPD Lt. Mike Budreau.

“Medford is the hub for retail activity in Southern Oregon,” Budreau said. “People come here to do their shopping.”

And this type of theft has been occurring here for some time.

The most common scenario has been a nicely dressed woman either distracting or bumping into the intended theft victim so they can grab their wallet from their purse without the theft being noticed.

The woman likely has at least one accomplice. And such thefts have also been carried out differently.

However, those responsible know what they’re doing, Budreau noted.

He described the crimes as well planned because the suspects use the victims’ cards to buy as much as they can, as fast as they can, before the victim realizes their wallet is gone and can report the cards as having been stolen.

“They are working on a time frame,” he said. “They obviously have a plan in place.”

Among ways they have maximized their ill-gotten profits is by going to electronics stores and purchasing big-ticket items, buying a significant number of gift cards and using self-checkout to complete the purchases with speed and less interaction with others.

They don’t use the cards at the same retailer where the theft occurred.

Budreau warned that women shouldn’t leave a purse or wallet sitting open or unattended in a shopping cart or basket. Make sure a purse is carried over the shoulder and closed. And if for some reason it’s inside a cart, tie the straps around the cart handle and, again, keep it closed.

“Be on guard,” Budreau advised. “They wait for the easy target.”

He also asked that anyone who might have information about these thefts contact the Medford Police Department. They have made public images from surveillance video in an effort to obtain help in identifying those responsible.