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PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (NEWS CENTER) - Police in Portsmouth, Portland and Greenland say someone is targeting elderly shoppers. They say the suspects are distracting them and stealing their wallets while they shop.

Portsmouth police say, on January 11, 2013, when an 83-year-old woman went to pay for her merchandise, at Ocean State Job Lot, she discovered her wallet was missing. After searching her home, and checking her accounts, she discovered several fraudulent transactions had posted to her account in the amount of $5,000. Police say the transactions occurred within an hour of the wallet disappearing.

After an investigation, police discovered that the victim was approached by a black female while she was shopping Ocean State Job Lot. Police say the suspect was then seen in another nearby store where one of the fraudulent actions occurred. Police say in the surveillance video the woman was accompanied by a black male suspect.

Portsmouth police say they are working with Portland and Greenland police. Portland police have taken similar reports involving the same suspects.

Portsmouth police say the suspects have consistently done the following:
1. Targeted elderly female patrons who are shopping by themselves.
2. Approached and engaged these patrons in random and innocuous conversation to distract them.
3. A second party lifts wallet or purse from carriage.
4. Suspects leave the store and quickly begin to make purchases on Credit Cards/Debit Cards.

Police also say that they see a trend of the suspects acting near main roadways/highways and areas of condensed commercial businesses. They say it "affords the suspects an easy method to fraudulently obtain goods and to leave the area."

If anyone has any information they are asked to contact Officer Seth Tondreault, Portsmouth Police Department, (603) 610-7613, tondreaults@cityofportsmouth.com, or can report tips anonymously through Seacoast Crime Stoppers, (603) 431-1199.

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