Gang of thieves targets supermarket shoppers in east Devon


- Credit: Matt Smart

Supermarket shoppers in Exeter and East Devon are being targeted by a gang of thieves who steal their payment cards and make purchases amounting to thousands of pounds.

olice say a member of the gang watches a shopper key in their PIN number at the till.

The shopper is then followed out to the car park and distracted by an accomplice, while another gang member steals their purse or wallet.

There have been several incidents, including one at each of the Sidmouth and Exeter branches of Waitrose, another at Tesco in Seaton, one at the Exe Vale Tesco and another at Sainsburys in Pinhoe, Exeter.

The people targeted have mainly been pensioners, including an 88-year-old woman whose stolen card was then used to make purchases totalling more than £2,500.

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An 88-year old man had his card stolen and used to make purchases of nearly £5,000.

Police Constable Kat Henton said: "It's clear that a gang of up to three men and a female are freely targeting elderly people, with little or no concern of being caught on camera.

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"Both elderly men and women are being targeted and reports are becoming more prevalent.

"The group members have been described to us as being of Eastern European ethnicity and often the male party is described as having a 'foreign' accent.

"These thefts revolve around people being targeted at supermarkets for their bank cards.

"Shoppers are unwittingly being observed when paying for goods at the checkout. Accomplices in the supermarket car park are then approaching the individuals, and while one distracts them, either asking for directions or engaging them in general conversation, the other offender sneaks into the car and steals their bag or purse or pickpockets them.

"We have found that the cards are used almost immediately to purchase high value items using the PIN, or to withdraw cash.

"We are encouraging people to make sure that their PIN numbers are well hidden when inputting them at the checkout, and that personal belongings including wallets and purses are kept safe and not left unattended at any time."

Anyone who has any information that could help police enquiries, or anyone who has been a victim of theft, is asked to call 101 quoting CR/008855/20.

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