A trickster targeting people using a cashpoint on Thornton precinct has been branded a ‘lowlife’ by a pensioner who fell victim to his elaborate scam.
Police are hoping CCTV of this man will help snare the thief, who last week stole £10 from the 69-year-old Thornton man at the machine outside the Co-Op on Victoria Road East.
The thief attaches a sticky plastic strip to the cash dispenser when no one is about - and is then brazen enough to join the queue when he sees someone go to use the machine.
When they do so the cash is dispensed but does not appear because it gets blocked by the strip.
Their card is returned and the conman hopes they will then go into the branch to query what has happened to their money.
If nobody else has since joined the queue he will then remove the strip and flee with the cash.
That is what happened in the case of the 69-year-old, who had tried to use the machine at 3.30pm on Saturday, June 6.
The victim, who does not wish to be named, said: “When the money did not come out I was thinking it had run out or I had done something wrong.
“When I went into the shop and spoke to the manager he checked the CCTV and said ‘you’ve been done’ - he knew it had happened a few times.
“I’ve since seen the footage and although I didn’t realise it at the time the man was standing behind me at the cashpoint. I feel furious that someone could be so low as to do a trick like that.
“I’ve had to graft my guts out all my life and would never dream of doing something like that. He is a lowlife.
“It was only £10 in my case but it could be £200 next time but it’s the principle that makes me angry.
“I had a bit of a mistrust of machines anyway and I’m now frightened to use them.”
Police believe the culprit is also responsible for three other attempted thefts at the same machine. They happened at around midday on Friday, May 30, at 1.45pm on Wednesday, June 4 and at 5.30pm, also on June 6.
On June 4 the thief failed because, coincidentally, the woman using the machine was an off-duty police officer who waited for assistance rather than going into the shop. On the other occasions he left empty-handed because other people had joined the queue and the strips left behind have been sent off for forensic tests.
PC Mark Hepplestall, from Fleetwood Police Station, said: “This man is certainly cheeky but he is standing below the CCTV camera and we hope someone will give us a name
“The strip he is using is crude and home-made. It’s not something I’ve seen before and it’s certainly not the type of thing you would see used in organised crime.
“We believe the man may be local. He has caused a lot of distress to this pensioner and his family and we do not want him to be able to rip off any other vulnerable people going about their daily business.” Anyone able to help police should call PC Hepplestall or PC Ian Hill on 01253 604374 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
A spokesman for the Co-op Bank said protecting its customers was a priority. “We are aware of attempts that were made at this specific machine and as a result have taken steps to increase its security going forward,” he added.