'It's like being violated': Victim describes purse theft scheme while shopping

A few days ago, she was shopping at the Bed Bath and Beyond on Southside Boulevard. Now her shopping experience has become a police investigation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Late October, a local woman became an unsuspecting victim of theft while shopping for curtain rods.

"I admit I should have never turned away from my cart," said Debra Hufstetler. "This caught me off guard."

On Oct. 26, Hufstetler was shopping at the Bed Bath and Beyond on Southside Boulevard. She said another shopper asked her for help.

"She distracted me," she said. "The lady was a decoy."

While Hufstetler was busy helping the woman, another person came up to her cart and stole her wallet from her backpack. Hufstetler realized it was missing later at checkout.

"It is like being violated," she said. "Having your life stolen."

A report filed with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office shows within minutes, the thieves tried to use her credit cards at a nearby Target to purchase IPads and gift cards, but the purchase was declined. They tried again at the Home Depot and a nearby Circle K store.

"I know I had a lot of stuff in my wallet and I try to think back what did I have in there," she said.

JSO has a possible suspect, but her description was redacted from the report.

"I want for every woman to be very cautious because they are still out there," she said.

Hufstetler has had to replace her drivers license, credit cards and more. She said she knows it is not over.

"She has stolen my security that I feel around people," she said. "Now, I am cautious about everybody and people don't like to feel like that."

We reached out to JSO to find out there are more victims and have yet to hear from them.

As we approach the shopping season, here is what you should do now:

  • Carry only what you need in your purse or wallet
  • Make a detailed list
  • Keep the list in a secure place

If you should become the victim of a purse theft or snatching, follow these steps:

  • File a complaint with police immediately
  • Contact your bank and credit card companies
  • Contact the credit reporting agencies
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
     

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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