Seattle woman tells of becoming one of the latest car prowl victims in city

SEATTLE -- Melinda Tan thought she had done the right thing, hiding her wallet under her car seat and parking her vehicle in a garage near the main entrance to a gym in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood while she went to work out.

"There is always people driving in and out, walking in and out of the gym, nobody would have the guts to break into my car right near the main entrance," she said.

But a short time later, she got a text from her bank about possible fraud.

"Thought it was spam, so I checked my bank account on my phone and, sure enough, I saw a $100 transaction go through at a local Chevron," she said.

She ran to her car and found the passenger window shattered. Her purse was gone, and whoever took it went on a shopping spree.

"Fifty dollars at a Brown Bear car wash. They went to three different QFC's, three different Starbucks."

The thief racked up more than $500 in purchases, including $106 at a Starbucks on Elliott Avenue West.

Tan called the store.

"The gal recalled the transaction: 'Oh yeah, it was a taxi cab driver that drove through the drive thru and purchased a gift card.'"

Police are investigating, but the case highlights a real problem in Seattle -- car thefts and prowls rose by 3,300 cases in 2014 from 2013.

Police say never leave anything in plain sight -- a lesson learned by Tan the hard way.

"Definitely not leaving any belongings out in plain sight in my vehicle anymore!" she said.