New Delhi: The next time you go for an evening walk or a visit to the market and a `policeman` accosts you, chides you for wearing gold ornaments and proffers advice on how to save yourself from chain snatchers, just raise an alarm - for the `saviour` could be a chain snatcher himself.
Gangs involved in chain snatching have invented new tricks to fool people in India and claim to be police officials in civil dress who are out to save naive citizens from snatchers.
Police have already busted a few such gangs working in posh south and west Delhi.
According to police, their modus operandi is very interesting yet simple as they target women in upscale colonies wearing jewellery and are on foot - alone.
"We have received several such complaints. The gangs have been targeting women in posh colonies especially during mornings and evenings. They roam in these colonies in groups of twos and keep a lookout for such victims who walk alone," a police official said on condition of anonymity.
After zeroing on a victim, the men identify themselves as police officials and advise their victim not to wear precious ornaments when they venture outdoors alone citing a surge in the number of chain snatching cases.
The gang members then hand over a handkerchief to the victim and ask her to remove her jewellery and keep it in the hanky with herself.
However, as soon as the victim removes her last piece of ornament, the other `cop` diverts her attention while the handkerchiefs are cleverly switched.
The victim realises she had been conned only after she reaches home. But by that time, it is too late.
Forty-five-year-old Sunaina Gupta, a resident of south Delhi`s Vasant Kunj, learnt this the hard way.
"I was out on a morning walk when I was approached by two men claiming to be Delhi Police officials. They scolded me for wearing a gold chain, ear-rings and rings, citing a surge in chain snatching cases," Gupta said.
"I put all my jewellery in a hanky given to me by them and the next thing I know is that I had been conned. I never realized when they switched the hankies," she added.
According to police, the gangs hail from Mumbai and are notorious for their activities in several states.
"These members hails from Mumbai and they had also committed such offences in several states," Station House Officer of Malviya Nagar Atul Kumar Verma said.
He said they have been arresting the gang members from time to time.
"If some of their members are arrested they go underground, but resurface again a few months later. Neither the police nor the citizens should drop their guard," said another police officer.
However, when fiesty Krishna Devi was accosted by the conmen she caught their fraud act.
A resident of Malviya Nagar, the 65-old-woman successfully thwarted the plan of two snatchers with her quick thinking and alertness.
"They claimed to be police officials and started lecturing me. The minute they handed me the hanky I asked them for their identification cards because neither were in uniform nor on the official patrol bike," Devi said.
"They started stammering and gave silly excuses. I raised an alarm and they fled from the spot," she added.
Meanwhile, police said that easy money was luring youngsters from underprivileged families to indulge in chain snatching and the number of such people was rising.
"It`s an easy way for them to get money. The jewellery is quickly disposed off, often being sold to finance companies," Assistant Commissioner of Police Manishi Chandra said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Chhaya Sharma said that they had arrested one such gang, which used to exchange the stolen jewellery with money from an established finance company.
Delhi Police had registered 1,289 cases in 2009, 1,596 cases in 2010 and 1,476 in 2011.
As many as 382 such cases of chain snatching have been registered in the capital till April end this year.