POLICE are appealing for residents to be Good Samaritans to help catch a gang of con artists fleecing tourists by pretending to be undercover officers.
Detectives are urging members of the public to contact police if they believe the fraudsters are targeting unsuspecting visitors in the city centre.
The gang have carried out more than ten thefts in the last three weeks, often asking to check holidaymaker’s wallets for counterfeit notes before stealing cash.
During each sting, a man pretending to be a fellow visitor starts a conversation with a tourist before two more men pretending to be plain-clothed police officers arrive, complete with ear-pieces and fake ID.
Officers have visited hotels and B&Bs in the Capital asking staff to warn to their guests about the scam. And police are also asking tram drivers to be on the look-out for the suspects while stepping up the force’s high-visibility and plain-clothes patrols near tourist attractions.
The latest theft came on Wednesday when a mother and daughter on holiday from Chile had more than £1000 stolen near Haymarket Station.
The pair were approached by the “inside man” on Magdala Crescent who handed them a camera and asked them to take his photograph. Then his two co-conspirators arrived, produced a photo card with “police” on it, and demanded to check identities.
The man with the camera immediately allowed his possessions to be searched and the Chilean tourists then agreed to a check. The thieves stole the large sum of dollars and sterling from their bag.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Houston said: “There is clearly a group of thieves operating in Edinburgh who are falsely presenting themselves as police officers in order to search the bags of unsuspecting tourists.
“These crimes are being carried out across the city centre. And, unfortunately, the so-called officers act so quickly that the victims are being duped into thinking the cash is still in their wallets or bags.
“We would urge members of the public to look out for men who are acting suspiciously, especially around tourists, and contact police immediately the minute they see something untoward.”
He added: “We’re also asking taxi drivers, bus drivers and tram drivers to report anything suspicious that they see on their journeys.” The gang have targeted tourists in the Royal Mile and Princes Street, as well as surrounding roads.
Officers are examining CCTV footage in a bid to identify the culprits, who have struck during the day and at night, and have briefed shop security staff to keep an eye out for the con team.
The first suspect is described as Asian, late 30s or early 40s, 5ft 10in, and medium build. Another suspect is Asian, mid 40s, 5ft 7in, and slim build, while the third is of Mediterranean appearance, 30 to 35 years old, 6ft 2in and medium build.