A distraction theft victim has been left disappointed with a Northampton supermarket after being one of at least two shoppers scammed out of hundreds of pounds by con artists.
A fraudster has been asking for directions in the Sainsbury's car park off Gambrel Road while another steals their bank card, which is then used to withdraw money from a cash machine.
Julie Holloway was one such victim but she says her distress was not helped by the reaction from the store staff and the security onsite.
Her mother Patricia Nolan was so enraged that she wrote to the supermarket giant's chief executive to complain, to little avail.
"I don't know what the answer is but morally Sainsbury's has a duty to their customers to sort this out as where do we go from here as they have got away with it and we just don't know what to do now," Ms Nolan said.
Between 1.15pm and 2.45pm on July 28, a man around 5ft 6in tall, aged around 25-35, with dark short hair and clean shaven, approached Ms Holloway as she was loading her shopping.
She closed the boot and put her handbag into the car on the seat and he said he was lost and asked her for directions to Reading, producing a map which he placed on her bonnet.
Ms Holloway explained how to get there, and they both left. But when she got to her home in Duston, Halifax called to say there had been unusual activity on both her account.
More than £1,500 was stolen, with around £73 from Sainsburys - her cards were cancelled and there was no means to get the money back.
Ms Nolan said her daughter thinks they watched her put in her PIN so they could use her card, and feels 'stupid' that she was duped.
"The whole time she was in their shop she didn't feel comfortable as there were a lot of people milling around but she paid for her shopping like everyone does and got to her car and was aware someone was watching her," she said.
"If that had been a senior citizen it could have been a lot worse and it's not just this one incident."
Ms Nolan wrote to Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe to complain about the security in the car park and the apparent lack of interest from staff.
His secretary replied on his behalf, saying she was sorry to read about her ordeal, but that they are unable to take any responsibility for crimes committed in the car park, despite her being watched and the money being fraudulently withdrawn in-store.
Ms Holloway wants Sainsbury's to improve visible security throughout the store, better lighting in the underground car park and to take moral responsibility for the security and well-being for their customers.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We are contacting Julie to apologise for her experience and will support the police with their investigation in any way we can.”
Another woman was approached by a man in the same car park between 2pm and 3pm on July 28, who asked her what town he was in and how to get to London.
While the woman was distracted, a second man has managed to get into her car and remove her bank card. Shortly afterwards, £70 was taken from a nearby ATM.
Northamptonshire Police released an alert advising people to remain alert after a spate of distraction thefts of this nature in supermarket car parks across the county.
Crime prevention manager Paul Golley said: “Criminals can use distraction techniques to their advantage in a variety of ways, including asking for directions whilst you are using a cash machine, or distracting you whilst you’ve left your handbag in the shopping trolley momentarily.
“Such questions appear very normal and legitimate, and in many cases will be just that. However timing is everything to a distraction thief, as they are hoping to catch you off guard whilst your mind is focused on other things.”
Police advise to try to keep an open mind and beware of your wider surroundings where possible, and to trust your instincts - if something does not feel right, politely decline.
- Keep your belongings with you or secured out of sight.
- If you leave your car for any amount of time, check your windows and doors are locked.
- If you choose to help with requests for assistance, be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
- If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Politely say you cannot help and drive away.
For further advice on how to protect yourself and your belongings, click here.