Police warning after distraction thefts in Stevenage and North Herts

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Police are investigating three distraction thefts in Hitchin, Letchworth and Stevenage - Credit: Archant

The public has been warned to be on their guard after three distraction thefts in Hitchin, Letchworth and Stevenage.

The first offence took place at 12.15pm on Thursday, January 20.

A man was in Jackson's Yard car park, in Hitchin, when he was approached by a man he did not know who asked if he could buy a parking ticket for him, as his foreign card was not working.

The victim tried to buy a parking ticket on his credit card, which appeared to have been kept by the machine. The offender then said he was ringing the help number on the information board - which the victim now believes to have been a fake call.

The offender told the man to use his debit card, which also appeared to be retained by the machine, then left in a small blue car.

A second offence took place at around the same time, in the Garden Square multi-storey car park in Letchworth.

A man was putting his shopping in his car on the second floor when an unknown man approached him and said he needed him to input his details into the pay and display machine.

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The offender then told the victim the machine had swallowed the card, and asked the man to put in another card, which also disappeared. The offender then left, heading into the shopping centre, and the victim's cards were used to make cash withdrawals.

The third offence took place at around 1.15pm the same day, in High Street, Stevenage.

A man parked his car, was approached by an unknown man and told there was a new system in place and he needed to register his vehicle to pay and park.

The offender then pointed to a man cycling past in a high-vis jacket and told the victim that he had been making a note of people’s registration numbers.

The offender accompanied the man to a pay machine in the car park on Primett Road and told him he needed to insert his bank card and pin number into the machine. The bank card disappeared while the man was trying to add the registration number, and the offender told him the machine had swallowed it.

He then told the man to try with another bank card and the same thing happened, again while the man was trying to add the registration number.

The offender said he needed to get back to his car and left. The victim managed to get some assistance and the machine was opened, but there were no cards inside.

When the victim rang his bank to cancel his cards, he was told that they had already been used to withdraw money.

Investigating officer Heather Burrows said: “We are asking for people to be on their guard and report any suspicious behaviour of this nature to us.

"Any changes to parking arrangements will be well publicised and if in doubt motorists should always check with the council or call the number on the payment machine themselves.

“Do not use your card in the presence of others and be careful if someone offers to help you use a payment machine or approaches you for help with a payment.

“While we would not want to discourage anyone from helping others, we would urge caution and to 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.”