Police are urging the public to be vigilant after a number of shoppers have been targeted by thieves in supermarket car parks across Devon and Cornwall.
While the victims, in some cases elderly women, have purchased goods in a supermarket or used a cash point a suspect has watched them enter their PIN number.
When the victims have returned to their vehicles, they have been approached by someone asking for directions to the nearest hospital or similar location. While the victim is being distracted, someone else has got into their vehicle and stolen their bank cards.
Within a very short space of time, multiple transactions are attempted at post offices and banks withdrawing as much money as possible, often several thousands of pounds.
Since 27 January 2016, 15 distraction thefts have been reported across Devon and Cornwall. Incidents have been recorded in Exmouth, Crediton, Cullompton, Newton Abbot, Sidmouth, Totnes, Plymouth, Saltash, Bude, Liskeard, as well as other areas across the South West.
One of the most recent incidents reported to police happened in Cullompton on Tuesday 1 March, sometime between 2.15pm and 2.45pm. A man approached a 59-year-old local woman for directions in the Aldi supermarket car park on Exeter Road.
While distracted, another man has taken her bank cards from her handbag on the driver’s seat. One of the men is believed to have watched the woman enter her PIN number in the supermarket moments before.
Both men are believed to be around 35 and of Eastern European origin. One of the men is described as being around 5ft 4ins, of average build with short mousey brown hair and some facial stubble.
The other man is described as being around 6ft 1ins tall, of slim build with a shaved head and facial stubble. He was wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans.
Inspector Jane Alford-Mole, Geographic Support Inspector for Exeter, East and Mid Devon, said: “We are encouraging shoppers, particularly elderly women, to be vigilant when using their PIN numbers in supermarkets.
“Anyone who falls victim to an incident like this is asked to report it to police with as much detail as possible about the suspects, the vehicle they used and the registration number.
“Victims are also advised to contact their bank immediately to cancel their cards.
“Residents can be reassured that no violence has been used during any of the incidents but equally we want to ensure that there are no further victims.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or email email@example.com, quoting reference CR/013907/16.
Information can also be passed anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111 or reporting online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.