Richmond residents are warned about a spike in thieves who are targeting people at parking machines.

Reports have increased of criminals distracting people using pay and display machines, in order to steal their bank cards.

In some cases, thieves pretend to be confused by parking signs and approach victims to ask for advice.

They watch and wait while the victim enters their pin number, then distract them and retrieve their bank card from the machine.

In a more sophisticated version of the scam thieves masquerade as parking attendants, complete with fake ID cards.

The fake attendants tell their victims their vehicle has been photographed and they will be fined if they fail to purchase a parking voucher immediately from a machine. Again, they steal the card while the victim is confused or distracted.

In both cases the victim is told the machine has swallowed their card and that someone from the Council will arrive shortly to retrieve it for them, before the scammers head for the nearest cashpoint to steal their money.

Cllr Alexander Ehmann, Chair of the Transport and Air Quality Committee for Richmond Council, said:

“Our Civil Enforcement officers will be keeping a close eye out for these con artists and will be working closely with local police Safer Neighbourhoods Teams to track them down.

“Until they are caught, I would urge people to be on their guard against this kind of scam.

“Never enter your PIN number into any cash or payment machine in view of anyone else and please be aware that our parking machines cannot and will not ‘swallow’ bank cards. All our parking machines accept contactless payment and we would encourage people to pay that way.

“If you have any concerns at all that you might have been conned, contact your bank immediately so your card can be cancelled.”