With the Christmas shopping season about to kick off, the major shopping streets and malls of the capital are being eyed as a honey pot to thieves and pickpockets looking for easy grifting among the crowds of gift-hunters.

Indeed, new research has found that on average pickpockets steal around £190 worth of valuables each time they strike in the UK, with mobile phones often the target.

Expert pickpocket Lee Thompson noted: "Unfortunately pickpocketing is very common, especially in areas where crowds gather and people are distracted. A good pickpocket understands human psychology and knows people can only direct their attention to one or two things at a time."

"There are ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of theft, such as being extra vigilant – if you expect you are being followed, go into a shop or change direction. Be aware of the helpful stranger or group of children who are experts in making conversation to distract you," he added.

London is the most common place for pickpockets in the UK. The research, from Nationwide, also found that in the year ending June 2015, there were around 442,000 theft from person offences.

Trouser and coat pockets were the most common places to steal from, with over 75% of victims not realising they had been robbed.