Wiltshire Police are urging people making their way to the shops to be vigilant in light of a recent increase in the number of distraction thefts throughout the county.
Older members of the community, predominantly women, are being targeted as they do their supermarket shopping.
Offenders observe victims entering their PIN number at cash points and checkouts before following and approaching them. Excuses often include asking for directions, sometimes using a map, asking for change for parking or a supermarket trolley and also suggesting that they have dropped money, usually a high value note.
Whilst distracted their purse, including their card for which the offenders already have the PIN, is then stolen from their bag by a second person.
Offenders are often described as being Eastern Europe and usually work in pairs.
Reports have been received of incidents in towns throughout the county including Trowbridge, Chippenham, Warminster, Bradford-on-Avon, Calne and Swindon.
Work is on-going by officers and staff to try and identify those responsible for targeting often the most vulnerable members of our community and to share information with partner agencies and forces.
The police advice is to follow the following advice:
• Always keep purses and wallets out of sight when possible
• Never keep your PIN with you credit or debit cards
• Always cover your PIN when using cash machines or PIN pads
• Always try to be aware of what and who is around you and avoid putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation
• And remember, it might not be you that is in danger – if you see anything you think is suspicious call the police – better safe than sorry!
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of distraction are encouraged to contact police on 101.