Beware The Christmas Crooks

Seasonal advice for travellers

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Op Magnum Christmas

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British Transport Police (BTP) is revealing tactics used by Christmas crooks in an effort to help the travelling public be more prepared this festive season.

The advice follows the launch of Operation Magnum earlier this year – BTP’s campaign to help Tube and rail passengers keep valuables safe from pickpockets, gadget-grabbers and luggage thieves.

As part of the initiative, officers have issued video clips on the festive Op Magnum website ( to help the travelling public spot the 13 most common tricks thieves use.

These include:

The Earlybird – A thief boards the train at the start of the journey: they pick out a bag containing lots of gifts, and leave the train before it has departed.

The Concealed Hand – A thief takes advantage at busier stations and crowded trains, which make it easier for them to dip into the victim’s bag unnoticed.

The Plucker – A sleeping passenger can quickly become a victim of theft.

The Wait Lifter – A thief looks for a victim in a café or shop: they steal shopping bags that are on the floor while the victim is distracted.

In the run-up to Christmas, officers will be handing out luggage tags and leaflets with crime prevention advice as well as activity sheets for younger travellers.

Officers will also be encouraging passengers to register their mobile phones and electrical devices to, a website that helps police reunite lost or stolen items to the owner.

Chief Superintendent Paul Brogden, who is leading the operation, said: “While crime on the rail network is down for the ninth successive year, theft of passenger property can be a challenge for us at this time of year.

“Christmas is a time when people are out buying expensive goods and the last thing anyone wants is to get home and find that their valuables have been stolen.

“We hope that by revealing the methods used by thieves, passengers can better protect their belongings and enjoy the festive period.

“We’ll be using a range of tactics to disrupt and deter potential thieves every day, including intelligence-led patrols by uniformed officers and plain-clothes theft squad detectives.

“There are lots of things passengers can do to help protect themselves from becoming a victim of theft when travelling on the railway.

“Always remember to keep your gifts and luggage close by and check on them regularly, keep your valuables hidden if you’re going to sleep and always zip up any hand or shoulder bags.

“Installing a tracker application on your smartphone and tablet can also help us trace your device if it’s stolen. Keep a note of your device’s IMEI number and register it to to help police return it to you if it’s lost or stolen.”

As part of the anti-theft campaign, BTP will be tweeting every theft on the railways reported to officers in the previous 24 hours using the hashtag #EveryXmasTheft.

The tweetathon, which takes place on Friday, 6 December, will be broadcast on the @btp_uk account ‘as live’ at the exact time the theft was reported 24 hours earlier.

The aim of the online operation is to highlight to passengers the importance of looking after personal belongings and valuables whilst travelling across the rail network.

To report a theft to British Transport Police call 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016 with details of what happened.

Your IMEI number:

Keeping a note of your mobile phone or tablet IMEI number can help police return lost or stolen items to the owner.

To find your IMEI number:

  • Dial *#06# on the keypad and the IMEI number will be displayed.

  • Remove the battery of the phone — the IMEI number will be identified on a sticker underneath.

  • On an iPhone and iPad, go to Settings > General > About. Scroll down to IMEI to find the 14 digit number.

Then register your details on, which will help us identify your property.

If you think your property has been stolen:

  • Stay calm and don't panic. Report it to a member of transport staff or a police officer straight away

  • Report a theft on the railway or London Underground to British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016

  • In an emergency, always dial 999

Tips for keeping your property safe on trains:

  • Keep purses secure and carry wallets in an inside pocket

  • Zip up hand and shoulder bags

  • Carry bags in front of you, with flaps against your body

  • Keep straps short and bags tucked under your arm

  • Don't display jewellery, mobile phones and MP3 players

  • Don't show your money - keep it safely in your pocket

  • Stay alert and aware of what's going on around you when using your phone in public

  • Keep your luggage close by and check it regularly


3rd December 2013