As New Year shoppers hit the sales looking for bargains, police have warned of thieves hoping for a steal.

Phones, wallets and purses are the main target of pickpockets behind a spate of thefts in Colindale, North Finchley and Brent Cross this week.

And police have warned that the light-fingered criminals have adopted distraction techniques and working in pairs.

Two shoppers had their purses and wallets stolen yesterday while they were browsing clothes stores in High Road, North Finchley.

Meanwhile one woman had her bag stolen in Waitrose in Brent Cross yesterday and a girl had her phone stolen while she waited for a bus in Warner Close, Hendon on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Barnet Police told the Times Series how pickpockets usually work in groups, and are currently using a handful of cunning ways to steal things from their unsuspecting victims.

He said: “One that we’re seeing more and more of is when they ask for directions using a map.

"They go into a coffee shop and put a map down over someone’s phone or bag and the next thing it’s gone. Or they speak to someone showing them the map so they can get close to their pocket.

“Another way is they flick something on you like water or dye and they come to assist you to brush it away. They then are close enough to pick your pocket.”

If you have any information about the above incidents contact Barnet police on 101.