POLICE are urging Chester shoppers to stay vigilant after criminals targeted cashpoints in the city.
Fraudsters have been taking money from unsuspecting members of the public at cash machines positioned outside post offices, convenience stores and
other outlets across the city using a variety of methods.
Ten cashpoints across the city have been hit by the criminals, who police believe to be of Eastern European origin, as well as four in Boughton and one in Frodsham.
Cheshire Police’s economic crime unit has launched ‘Operation Astoria’ in a bid to tackle the criminal activity and is urging residents to keep their wits about them when using ATMs.
“These are moving criminals who have been operating across the UK and have been targeting areas across Cheshire, in particular the Chester area, in a bid to steal money,” said DC Tony Condon, from the economic crime unit.
“They identify particular cash machines in certain areas and target them using a variety of methods.”
Card skimming, cash trapping and card entrapment are all methods used by the fraudsters during their crime spree, which has been in effect since last summer.
DC Condon added: “The fraudsters are using all three methods to obtain money from innocent victims. ATM users do not know they are victims until they realise their account balance has reduced more than normal.
“These criminals identify certain cashpoints in areas of the country on the internet and then they are able to plan what equipment is needed to carry out the fraud.
“They take a gamble on people using the cashpoint living in the city or the surrounding area and take out enough money so the victim’s bank will not become alerted to any suspicious activity. They then move on and target another machine as they are wise to the fact if they hit the same one repeatedly, the likelihood is they will get caught.”
Operation Astoria was put in place in the run up to last summer’s Olympic Games in London, with Cheshire Police concerned fraudsters would swoop on unsuspecting tourists visiting the country for the games.
DC Condon said: “Built-up retail areas are where these individuals tend to target but, due to the increase in the amount of ATMs at shops such as the Co-Op and
Spar, criminals have now taken to targeting these machines as well.
“We are now in the process of engaging with employees of shops with cashpoints and educating them on the suspicious behaviour to look out for.
“We also urge the public to check the ATM they are using and look for any suspicious devices that may be around them. We would also urge people to remain aware of ‘shoulder surfers’ looking to find out their pin code and stay vigilant when withdrawing money.”
Anyone wanting to report suspicious activity can contact Cheshire Police on 101 or visit the fraud page at cheshire.police.uk