A GANG of thieves posing as police officers have struck at least 10 times, stealing thousands of pounds from their victims.

The group have been targeting tourists in Edinburgh over the last three weeks, convincing their victims with fake identification. Dressed in dark clothing and often wearing a police-style earpiece they then carry out a swift sting to search visitors' bags.

Police Scotland officers in the capital are appealing for help from the public in order to catch the group.

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The latest victims were targeted on Wednesday when a mother and daughter on holiday from Chile had over £1000 stolen from a bag.

The pair were approached by a man on Magdala Crescent who handed them a camera and asked them to take a photograph of him.

Another two men soon approached, stating they were plain-clothes police officers. They produced a photo card with the word "police" on it and then demanded to check identities.

They initially searched the bag of the man with the camera, who immediately complied, and then looked through a bag belonging to the Chilean tourists, managing to steal a large sum of dollars and sterling.

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 in streets 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."

The first incidents were reported at the start of the month. In one case, a woman had cash stolen from her purse after she was approached by a man pretending to be a tourist in St Andrews Square before two men, who told her they were police officers, appeared and spoke to her.

They asked to see her wallet to check for counterfeit currency and identification. They then took notes out, sniffed them and handed the wallet back, only for the woman to discover later that there was £140 missing from her wallet. Other crimes have taken place in Princes Street and Johnston Terrace.

Police Scotland have issued a description of the three suspects linked to the various crimes that have taken place this month.

The first is an Asian man in his late 30s or early 40s, 5ft 10ins and of medium build. The second man is also Asian, in his mid 40s, 5ft 7ins and of slim build.

A third suspect is of Mediterranean appearance, aged 30 to 35, 6ft 2in and of medium build.