A shopping trolley scam allegedly saw an 88-year-old gran lose £1,000 after her card was stolen after shopping at Tesco.
Lola Sledmere told the Express how she believes a trio of criminals worked to steal her card.
The pensioner said she was distracted by a man while returning her trolley in the carpark of the Tesco Superstore in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, after which another man sneaked into her car, just yards away, to nick the card.
Over the next two days, scammers took out money at cash points as far as 47 miles from her home.
The great of seven viewed CCTV inside the supermarket appearing to show a third criminal loiter behind her and watch her insert her PIN at the checkout.
Since the incident Ms Sledmere, who is a widow, has struggled to sleep and has become wary of leaving her home in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire.
The mother of four told Express.co.uk: “I have been told this activity is rife, particularly in some supermarket car parks in and around London.
“It’s affected me very much. I have been struggling to sleep because I think about it all the time. It is just so clear in my mind. I have felt sad and worried, and stupid to be honest. Sledmere’s account although police are investigating theft.
Ms Sledmere, who worked in psychology, added: “Of course, it has impacted me financially too. I am a pensioner. I have a state pension but I’m not well off at all.”
“I live alone, so of course it is going to affect me financially. I have seven grandchildren who all need money and it is upsetting I can’t help them at the moment.”
After Ms Sledmere paid for her groceries, it is believed she was followed out of the supermarket and to her car by the man who saw her PIN.
She put her shopping and handbag in her vehicle, left it unlocked as she turned to push the trolley to the bay just yards away.
But another man spoke to her at the bay, asking for directions to Chesham, which is less than three miles away.
Ms Sledmere said: “I thought this was strange. I thought he was being a bit stupid actually as there are plenty of signs for Chesham and it’s only around the corner. But I offered help.
“Someone previously must have looked over my shoulder and got my PIN when I was paying at the checkout.
“The checkout was the very one closest to the enclosure where people pay for their own groceries so it is pretty open and easy just for someone to stand there and not to be noticed.
“I got to my car, put my shopping away and I was near the trolley bay so went to return the trolley. I hadn’t locked my car and thought I didn’t need to because I was so very, very near the bay It was yards away.
“I thought the man was just waiting to use my trolley but he stood there and asked me the way to Chesham. I felt secure because I hadn’t got my handbag on me, which he could have snatched.
“I did notice him looking over my shoulder quite a lot, which was odd, but I went back to my car and drove home.”
Ms Sledmere, who was born in the Netherlands and moved to the UK in 1955, said she only realized the card was missing when she checked her bank online at home.
She saw two £250 withdrawals had been made in the minutes since.
The pensioner informed Thames Valley Police but two more £250 withdrawals were made the next day – Thursday March 3 – at cashpoints in Leyton, east London, some 47 miles away from the supermarket.
Ms Sledmere is working with police and her bank to get the money back in her account but she has warned other shoppers of the distraction danger.
She added: “Everyone should always lock their car, no matter how far it is from the trolley bay.
“I’d say be wary of strangers. My handbag was returned very neatly in the same spot it was in the car, and my wallet wasn’t taken so it was just this card but these criminals were very clever. It takes just minutes .
“It was very nasty. Shoppers should keep their wits about them. I want people to be aware so they are careful.
“I have written to the managing director of Tesco but am yet to hear back in the 10 days since.”
A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: “We received a report of a theft at around 9.05am on 4 March.
“A woman reported her bank card was stolen from her car in the car park of Tesco in London Road West, Amersham, while she was distracted by a man as she returned her trolley at around 2pm on 2 March.
“The card was then fraudulently used to withdraw a quantity of cash four times on 2 and 3 March.
“Following an investigation, the report has been filed pending further information coming to light.
“If anyone has any information relating to this, they should call 101 or make a report on our website, quoting reference number 43220096277.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We were sorry to hear about this incident and want to assure people that the safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority. Our stores have CCTV in the car parks to detect thieves and we ask customers to report any unusual behavior to our security guards.”
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