A woman who lost £1,000 – and almost much more – to a distraction thief in the car park of Sainsbury’s supermarket in Liphook is warning others about the ruse.
The theft took place in broad daylight at around 1pm on February 2, and afterwards the victim – who has asked to remain nameless – shared their experience online, describing how they were fooled in the hope others may avoid falling for the same trick.
After shopping at Sainsbury’s in Midhurst Road, the woman returned to her car and put their handbag on the passenger seat ready to return home to Headley. But as she was about to move off, a man approached her car and tapped on the window.
“I am sorry,” he said, “I saw someone in a black car hit your bumper and drive off. There is a big scratch. You had better come and have a look.”
The woman described him as very polite, well dressed, with a slight foreign accent, smallish, slightly dark-skinned, with grey hair and a grey beard.
After cleaning what appeared to be a black pen mark with a wet wipe, the victim thanked the man and went on her way.
However, she later discovered her purse was missing, along with all its contents, and saw on her online banking app that within minutes of the theft, £500 had been withdrawn from the cashpoint at Lloyd’s in Liphook with each of the two debit cards in her purse.
The woman immediately called her bank, which confirmed the thief had also made a contactless transaction for £51 at the Sainsbury store with her credit card, and had attempted to spend £799 in Argos on her debit card, which the bank declined.
In addition to the bank cards, her purse contained her driving licence, along with various store loyalty cards, a bus pass, library card and various membership cards.
They all needed to be replaced and – the victim fears – put her at risk of identity fraud while they remain in the hands of the thief.
In her post, the victim shared her feelings of devastation and foolishness, saying “I feel completely stupid and devastated by this incident. I am not stupid, am very careful about personal belongings, and I was totally taken in. Please if you get approached in this way, don’t fall for it.”
The theft was reported to Hampshire Constabulary and Sainsbury’s, with hope the store’s CCTV may have recorded “something useful”.
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: “We can confirm we have received a report of a distraction theft, which took place in the car park of the Sainsbury’s supermarket in Midhurst Road, Liphook, on Thursday, February 2.
“It was reported that a woman had her purse stolen from her car after she was approached by a man in the car park.
“Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting the reference number 44230045131, or via our website.”
Cllr Adam Carew, district councillor for Whitehill & Greatham, said he was “appalled” by the incident, saying that “shoppers need to remain vigilant to this latest scam and call the police if affected.”
He added: “My heart goes out to anyone deceived in this cruel manner especially as the person distracting the victim seemed so concerned and polite.
“I am glad the police are involved. Let’s hope this is not happening at other supermarkets and car parks in East Hampshire and the wider area.”
Hampshire Constabulary police advises shoppers to keep their purses and bags closed and secure at all times, always be aware of their surroundings, carry bags in front of them or diagonally across their chest, return cards to their purse or wallet quickly, use a purse that’s difficult for others to open, and not to hang bags on a pushchair.