Saffron Walden folk told to be on their guard against distraction scams

Fraudsters are using bold techniques to steal valuables such as mobile phones, purses, wallets and credit cards.

Ann Miller, of Saffron Walden, was targeted by two men asking for directions in Tesco car park as she was loading shopping into her car. She shooed them away after being warned of the scam in a previous edition of the Reporter.

“It is very upsetting,” said Mrs Miller. “Fortunately I was wise to their technique after reading about it but others might not be.”

It is believed that the last attack of this nature in Uttlesford was at Tesco car park in Dunmow back in January 2010. However, two incidents were reported in Witham and Maldon and five were reported in Braintree and Chelmsford in March this year – and now it appears that criminals are back in Uttlesford.

The incident happened at 5pm on Tuesday. One of the men asked for directions while the other positioned himself so that Mrs Miller was directly between them and her car.

She kept a tight hold on her shoulder bag and, after seeing that the men were holding up what looked like a till receipt, told them to move on.

“My instincts were on edge – they stood out,” she said. “It was obvious they were did not genuinely need directions because they were holding up this tiny piece of paper and asked me to show them where a certain road was. I would have had to bend down to see it.

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“I was quite rude to them when I told them to go away but they just walked towards another lady who was putting shopping in her car. She drove off before they could get to her.

“I went back to the store to tell a security guard and a policeman whom I had seen in there earlier about it, but the men were long gone by then.”

The suspects are described as rugged, with dark complexions and dark hair. They are around 5ft 8ins to 5ft 10ins tall, and were wearing dark clothing. They were driving a silver Mercedes saloon.

Inspector Kevin Wakefield confirmed that this type of distraction technique is known to police and urged people to take reasonable precautions to protect their valuables.

“If a stranger approaches you with a story about having lost car keys or needing directions, please ensure that your valuable items are safe and secure,” he said.

“Another technique is for a stranger to state that they’ve locked their car keys in the boot and to ask for money to get home or to a relative who has a spare pair of keys. Again, one’s natural inclination is to sympathise and help, but there have been incidents in the north of the county recently that have amounted to theft by false representation.”

• Anyone with information about this crime can contact Saffron Walden police on 0300 333 4444 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.