HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Hendersonville police have a warning for shoppers after multiple victims fell prey to professional pickpocketers.

Virginia Aust was victimized while shopping at the Walmart in Hendersonville Thursday, Sept 21.

“I reached into my purse to get my billfold and it was not there,” she said.

Aust told News 2 a woman approached her in the seasonal Halloween section of the store and
began asking her all kinds of questions about candy and decorations.

“She started asking questions about candy to hand out to children and then how she should decorate her house,” Aust recalled.

Unknown to her, while she was being asked questions, a second thief was lurking around and took advantage of the situation.

Police say the second thief reached into her purse and stole her phone and wallet.

Aust said she never noticed the other woman lurking around.

“I had no idea there was another lady anywhere around,” she said.

After realizing her belongings had been stolen, she went to customer service where she met another woman who had lost her cell phone.

When Aust told the manager that her wallet had been stolen, the other customer looked in her purse and noticed that not only was her cell phone missing, but so was her wallet.

That’s when Aust looked further into her purse and noticed that she too was missing her cell phone.

The Hendersonville Police Department showed News 2 surveillance footage from the store, showing the thieves using those stolen credit cards to buy merchandise before the cards could be canceled.

Aust said the women were good because she claimed she never left her purse and thieves still manages to steal items from it.

“I don’t know how. My purse was right on the top of my cart and I had my hand on the cart, never took my hands off the cart, and how she got into my purse without my knowing, but this lady had me so distracted looking up on the shelves and everything,” she said.

“The criminals are preying on people who trust in our society,” said Cmdr. Scott Ryan of the Hendersonville Police Department. “They trust that someone is not going to walk by a cart and take a purse when someone is standing five feet away from it…these criminals are creating the opportunities for this crime. They are looking for senior members of our community known to be more trusting and always willing to help.”

In order to protect yourself from falling victim to crimes like these, police urge you to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. You should also keep your purses shut and in front of you, or keep them on a strap across your body if possible.