Police are urging the public to be vigilant after a number of shoppers have been targeted by thieves in supermarket car parks across Devon and Cornwall.

While the victims, in some cases elderly women, have purchased goods in a supermarket or used a cash point a suspect has watched them enter their PIN number.

When the victims have returned to their vehicles, they have been approached by someone asking for directions to the nearest hospital or similar location. While the victim is being distracted, someone else has got into their vehicle and stolen their bank cards.

Within a very short space of time, multiple transactions are attempted at post offices and banks withdrawing as much money as possible, often several thousands of pounds.

Since January 27, 15 distraction thefts have been reported across Devon and Cornwall. Incidents have been recorded in Exmouth, Crediton, Cullompton, Newton Abbot, Sidmouth, Totnes, Plymouth, Saltash, Bude, Liskeard, as well as other areas across the South West.

In one incident, two men are believed to have been the perpetrators. Both are believed to be around 35 and of Eastern European origin. One is described as being around 5ft 4ins, of average build with short mousey brown hair and some facial stubble. The other man is around 6ft 1ins tall, of slim build with a shaved head and facial stubble. He was wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans.

Inspector Jane Alford-Mole said: ’We are encouraging shoppers, particularly elderly women, to be vigilant when using their PIN numbers in supermarkets.’

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or [email protected], quoting reference CR/013907/16.

Information can also be passed anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111 or reporting online atwww.crimestoppers-uk.org.

We’ll have much more on this story in this week’s Cornish Times, on sale tomorrow.