CHESHIRE Police is urging shoppers to be vigilant this Christmas and to make sure handbags are zipped up.

Thieves are known to steal personal belongings when out and about this time of year, with open and unzipped handbags a prime target.

Opportune criminals are also known to perform distraction scams by engaging in random conversation in a bid to steal valuables.

“Distraction theft is a truly sneaky and dreadful thing at any time of year, let alone Christmas,” said superintendent Laura Marler.

“It leaves victims feeling extremely foolish that they have allowed themselves to become a target, and that is not good.

“These despicable people prey on the vulnerable and are professionals who work to gain a victims trust before they pounce.

“We want everyone to be on their guard and for shoppers to ensure that they zip up purses and bags and make sure wallets are concealed.

“Officers on the frontline will be working hard over the festive period, ensuring they are on hand if you need them and helping to keep you safe this Christmas.”

Shoppers are also urged to keep Christmas presents under wraps while out shopping and to not leave newly bought items unattended in cars.

Cheshire Police has issued the following advice to deter thieves this Christmas:

• Keep hold of your phone, purse or wallet, and make sure your bag is zipped up. If your bag is snatched, let it go, as your safety is more important than your property.

• Attach an audible alarm to your purse/wallet (for example jingle bells).

• Never leave your bag unattended in your car or in your shopping trolley.

• Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder when you are using cards either at the till or at an ATM.

• Make sure you are not followed or engaged in conversation by someone who might be looking for an opportunity to steal from you.

To report a crime, call Cheshire Police on 101, or in emergencies, dial 999.