A scam where bank cards are stolen from kindhearted people as they give directions is operating across Northamptonshire, a victim has warned.
Disabled pensioner Susan Fuins said her cards were taken while she was in the car park of the Aldi supermarket in Old Greens Norton Road, Towcester.
She had got out of her car to give directions to a “well-dressed man” and had her back turned to her vehicle while they both consulted a map.
But the 64-year-old believes her bank cards were removed from her handbag, which was on a front seat of her car, while she was talking.
She said: “I’m angry. I was only being nice and helping him and he took advantage.”
Mrs Fuins only learned of the theft when a police officer called her to say her bank cards had been confiscated at a supermarket in Northampton after staff became suspicious of the person using them.
By that time the thieves had bought goods and taken out cash totalling around £500.
Mrs Fuins believes that someone had watched her enter her PIN before tipping off the thieves.
Five incidents where victims have been distracted by people asking for directions have been reported to Northants Police since the end of May. They all occurred in supermarket car parks in Northampton, Daventry, Towcester and Wellingborough.
A police spokesman said in all of these incidents, the victim has been approached by someone speaking in broken English, who has asked for directions and, on some occasions, then produced a map which they have unfolded on another car. Some of the victims have then got out of their car to help give directions.
While they are distracted, a second person has removed bank cards, cash, purses or bags from the boot or passenger seat of the victim’s car.
In many of the incidents, the victim has not realised they have been a victim of crime until they returned home or the offenders have attempted to use the stolen cards.
Paul Golley, crime prevention manager, said: “Thieves often use distraction techniques where some form of help is requested in a bid to obtain a small time advantage while you are focused on helping with the task.
“These thieves often work in pairs. While one is distracting you, the other attempts to steal your belongings while going undetected. Requests for help and directions are genuine in the vast majority of cases, however thieves do sometimes use these scenarios to their advantage.”
Before offering help, police advise everyone to lock windows and doors, keep belongings hidden, be aware of their surroundings and, if it does not feel right, politely decline.