Shoppers across Suffolk are being warned of distraction tactics being used by criminals to steal bank cards from pockets, wallets, purses and bags.
Since October 1, 2013, there have been 19 offences reported to police where shoppers at supermarkets have been distracted by someone when they left the store or returned their trolley to the trolley park.
The offenders are known to target older people or people parked in disabled parking areas.
Known to work in pairs or more, it is thought the organised groups identify their victim and follow them whilst shopping, taking note of their PIN at the check-out.
The victim is then approached either at the till, at their vehicle whilst unloading or when returning their trolley, by someone advising they have dropped some money, have a nail in their tyre or asking for directions.
Whilst the victim is distracted a second person will steal their bank card from their pocket, car or trolley.
The offenders leave without being noticed and the bank card is often used within a few minutes to withdraw money from a nearby ATM using the PIN number seen at the check-out.
The most recent incident happened on 31 March in the Tesco car park at Martlesham Heath.
In this incident when a shopper returned to her car, she was asked directions by a man in a nearby car; she left her car for a very short period to help and returned to later find two bank cards had been taken from her bag.
Suffolk Constabulary’s community safety manager, Alan Osborne said: “It would appear that these distraction type offences are on the increase, not only in Suffolk but across the country and are likely to be carried out by organised crime groups.
“The offenders work in pairs or threes, often identifying their victim as they enter the store, following them to the check-out and taking note of their PIN as it is entered.
“We would remind people to always check-out securely ensuring you cover the keypad when you enter your PIN and then always being aware of the distraction tactics used at your vehicle or whilst with your trolley.
“Keep your personal belongings with you at all times, and lock your vehicle if you walk away from it or bend down to check your tyres.
“Criminal groups are always looking at different and elaborate ways to dupe and distract people so we would remind you to be on your guard and aware of what is happening around you.”
Some of the known distraction techniques are:
- Being told you have a nail in your tyre
- Being told you have dropped a £5 or £10 note.
- Being asked directions/for change.
- Being asked the contents of tinned food.
- Being offered help to pack shopping into the boot of the car.
Crime reduction officers and officers from Safer Neighbourhood Teams have been spreading the word and making supermarkets and shops aware of the distraction techniques and tactics used and advising them to report any suspicious activity to police immediately.
If you notice any suspicious activity or believe a crime is in progress you are asked to contact police straight away on 999 or if you would like to find out further information about crime prevention advise you should call your local Crime Reduction Officer on 101.