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Suffolk: Police warn supermarket customers to be on their guard after distraction theft at Martlesham Heath Tesco

PUBLISHED: 16:44 16 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:44 16 April 2014

Tesco at Martlesham.

Tesco at Martlesham.

Suffolk police have said they have dealt with 19 cases of distraction thefts in supermarket car parks since the beginning of last October.

And now they are warning people to be on their guard to combat the organised gangs responsible.

Various ruses are used by thieves, often working in pairs or even larger groups, to draw the victim’s attention away from their car or trolley.

These include being approached by someone who tells you there is a nail in your car tyre, that you’ve dropped money or wants to ask you for directions.

While the victim is distracted by the stranger’s query another person will steal a bank card from their pocket, car or trolley.

The criminals will have identified their target in advance and followed them to the check-out where they take a note of the card’s PIN.

They often target older people or those in disabled parking areas.

The most recent incident was on March 31 in the car park of Martlesham Heath’s Tesco store.

A woman returning to her car was asked for directions by a man in a nearby car. She left her vehicle for a short period to help and later found two bank cards have been taken from her bag.

Suffolk Constabulary’s community safety manager Alan Osborne said: “It would appear that these distraction type offences are on the increase, not only in Suffolk but across the country and are likely to be carried out by organised crime groups.

“We would remind people to always check-out securely ensuring you cover the keypad when you enter your PIN and then always being aware of the distraction tactics used at your vehicle or whilst with your trolley.

“Keep your personal belongings with you at all times, and lock your vehicle if you walk away from it or bend down to check your tyres.

“Criminal groups are always looking at different and elaborate ways to dupe and distract people so we would remind you to be on your guard and aware of what is happening around you.”

If you notice any suspicious activity or believe a crime is in progress you are asked to contact police straight away on 999 or if you would like to find out further information about crime prevention advise you should call your local Crime Reduction Officer on 101.

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