Police are warning the public to be on their guard following a series of distraction thefts around the county.
At least six offences have occurred over the last few weeks, in Borehamwood, St Albans, Watford and Welwyn Garden City, with thieves stealing nearly £5,000 from mainly elderly or vulnerable people using ATM machines.
The thieves have tended to work in a group of two or more in each offence, one looking out for the PIN as it is keyed into the machine and another will then distract the victim. Sometimes they will claim that the machine isn’t working or will swallow the victim’s card, while covering the card slot with a piece of paper and stealing the victim’s bank card. Similar offences have also been reported when people have been using pay at pump or parking ticket machines.
The victims often believe their card has been retained by the card machine and do not realise their bank card has been stolen until the fraudulent transactions are discovered sometime later.
Sergeant Karen Mellor from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Crime Reduction Unit said: “We are asking for people to be on their guard when using ATM machine and be wary of anyone trying to speak to you or distract you after your card has been accepted into the machine.
“Do not use your card in the presence of others and shield your PIN when you input it. Be careful if someone offers to help you use a payment machine or approaches you for help with a payment, never hand your card to someone you don’t know and keep cards and wallets out of sight.
“If you think you may have been approached in a similar way, we need to speak to you, so please contact us as soon as possible.”