PEOPLE in Burton have been warned to keep on their guard against a growing trend of distraction thefts by criminals targeting the elderly.
Neighbourhood Watch said the offenders were usually carrying a map and asking for directions in areas of the town such as car parks or entrances to supermarkets.
While their target is busily trying to help, they use the cover of the distraction to try to steal their purse or wallet.
There have been several cases in the area in the past few months and now community chiefs are urging people to be on their guard.
“If someone stops you to ask for directions, most people would react in the same way, and try to help,” said a spokesman for Neighbourhood Watch and the Online Watch Liaison (OWL).
“Unfortunately, some offenders are taking advantage of this.
“In every case, the victim has been identified by the offenders, after using a bank card in a supermarket or other shop, or withdrawing cash from an ATM.
“The offenders will then follow the victim, and ask for directions.
“They will usually produce a map, which of course you look at.
“While distracted by this, one offender will attempt to steal your purse or wallet, either from your pocket, handbag or car.
“You may not realise until you next look for it.
“Many incidents have happened in supermarket car parks – it is likely the offenders will have watched you enter your pin number at the checkout.
“Following the victim home is an escalation of such scams and obviously gives cause for concern.
“Make your relatives and friends aware of this and be cautious when giving assistance to anyone who asks you for your help.
“Please also be alert if you see someone apparently carrying out this scam – the victims are unlikely to realise.”
People are also being warned to make sure nobody can see the number when they enter their pin number at checkouts or ATMs.
More information on crime is available by heading online to www.owl.co.uk
Crimes can be reported by calling Staffordshire Police on 101.