Pensioners in Harrow are being warned gangs of thieves are working in Harrow to steal their credit cards from cash point machines.
Twenty-five thefts from older people have been committed at cash points over the last six weeks, mostly carried out in the same way.
One of the crooks stands behind the person and watches and notes the pin number as the person keys it in. They place a five pound note on the floor behind the victim and ask them if they have dropped any money.
Whilst the elderly person is distracted an accomplice runs up, presses cancel and takes the card out of the machine. The crooks then use the card fraudulently to take out large amounts of cash at other cash point machines in the borough.
Patrick Connolly, of Crossway, Pinner, was a victim of one of these so-called distraction thefts at a Halifax cash machine on Bridge Street, Pinner, on Monday (09).
The 78-year-old said: "I just feel a bit stupid I had no idea where they came from, they might have been watching me.
"I just got a tap on my shoulder and asked if I'd dropped a fiver, when I turned around my card was gone."
Fortunately, Mr Connolly's card was found and returned to him.
One 82-year-old woman did not report the theft of her card for several days and she lost £680 after her card was used on three occasions.
Since May, ten robberies have taken place in Pinner; seven in Stanmore; two in St Ann's Road; four on Northolt Road and two in Rayners Lane.
Police believe the crimes may have been co-ordinated by a number of criminal gangs and not just random individuals.
Sergeant Steve Nicholas, a member of the Pinner Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT), said: "What we need is to re-educate more eldery residents who are using cash machines and make them more aware of this offence and that it is growing.
"They have to more guarded and shield their pins when using cash points." He also said they should report their cards as soon as they are stolen.
Susan Hall, deputy leader of the council and environment services portfolio holder, said: "I am absolutely appalled, we must all do what we can to be more mindful of elderly people. We are all responsible so we should all keep an eye out."
Two men were arrested on Monday (09) following a police operation into distraction thefts - where a thief robs a victim after distracting their attention elsewhere - involving policemen from the Pinner South and Pinner Safer Neighbourhood Team.
Teodore Ficuta, 21, was charged with theft from a person and actual bodily harm and Silviu Vanau, 19, was charged with theft from a person. The pair appeared in Harrow Crown court on Tuesday (10) and were remanded in custody.