BAG SNATCHERS who prey on the elderly have netted more than $4500 in cash and property in the past month.
The thieves strike in supermarkets, snatching bags left unattended in trolleys and have targeted at least 15 people since early March.
In one case, a handbag containing $1300 in cash and property was stolen from a supermarket shopper in Ballarat.
Supermarkets and shopping centres in Ballarat, Sebastopol and Wendouree have been targeted.
Police believe the cases are connected and are warning elderly shoppers to keep their belongings close and be on the alert for suspicious behaviour.
Senior Constable Rod Stepnell, of Ballarat Criminal Investigation Unit, said the thefts were so quick and well executed some victims did not notice their bags missing until they came to pay for their groceries.
"A lot of the time it happens when people turn their back on their trolley selecting items on the shelf or when their trolley is out of their view for a period of time.
"It would appear that they're just after easy targets and it's quite a quick and effective way of obtaining money," Sen Const Stepnall said.
"Quite a few of them are elderly or older generation victims who wouldn't be using credit cards and would have cash."
Sen Const Stepnell said none of the bags had been recovered yet, but police were looking at reviewing store security vision to identify the thieves.
He said bag-snatching was attractive for thieves because it was "easy money" and cash, unlike property, could not be traced.
He advised shoppers not to keep handbags and valuables in baskets and trolleys.
If shoppers suspected a thief was operating around them, they should call store security.
Anyone with information about the thefts should contact Sen Const Rod Stepnell at Ballarat CIU on 5336 6080, or Crime Stoppers Rural on 1800 333 000.