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Shoppers in the New Forest are being warned of a distraction scam taking place in supermarket car parks.
Members of the public have gone to the rescue of somebody faking collapse after returning to their cars with their shopping - only to find their purse or wallet has been stolen from the car during the commotion.
The unwitting victims have left their bags in unlocked cars in a number of local supermarket car parks while trying to help and only realised they had been robbed after the event.
It follows similar reports in Southampton and Totton recently.
The Safer New Forest Partnership, which includes Hampshire Police, asks people to be aware of the hoax and take steps to avoid becoming a victim.
Cllr Jill Cleary, New Forest District Council portfolio holder for housing and communities, said:
"This is a despicable deception which has left innocent members of the public distressed after being cheated by these fraudsters.
"These Good Samaritans have innocently gone to help somebody either collapsing in the car park or claiming to be diabetic and unwell and while they are distracted, their handbag or wallet has been taken from their car and the stolen bank cards used to withdraw money. We hope all shoppers will be aware and take precautions."
The council's issued advice to protect yourself when you go out shopping:
- Leave no valuables in your vehicle when you go supermarket shopping.
- Zip your bag up before you start shopping - a free purse lanyard is available from Safer New Forest to enable you to attach your purse to your handbag. Contact Stephanie Bennett on 023 8028 5588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carry your bag and never leave it unattended on the trolley - thieves can strike even while you look away to select an item on the shelves.
- Keep your PIN hidden when using your bank card at cash machines, don't keep it written down in your purse or wallet.
- Put your money away before leaving the machine and report any suspicious activity at the cashpoint. Try not to get harassed by people waiting behind you to use the machine - take your time.
- When putting your shopping in the boot of your vehicle, always ensure your handbag/wallet is with you and not left on the front seat.
- If somebody attracts your attention, lock your vehicle before responding.
- If you are at all concerned, call 999 for emergency assistance.
- If your cards are stolen, call your bank/credit card companies/store card stores immediately to cancel the cards and also report it to the police.