ELDERLY and vulnerable people have been warned to watch out for a gang of thieves who target supermarket shoppers.

The criminals watch their victims entering PIN numbers to pay for shopping and then follow them in an attempt to steal their purses and bank cards.

In Swindon, police said elderly people have been targeted in supermarket car parks by a gang of leg injury con artists intent on stealing their purses.

The force said it has received reports of thefts at the Tesco store on Ocotal Way.

PC Sue Ellway said: “We are conducting a number of enquiries in relation to these incidents which have no doubt caused a lot of upset and distress to the victims.

“I’d like to remind shoppers of the importance of ensuring you shield your PIN number when shopping as you never know who may be watching.

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times and if you see anything suspicious, call police immediately on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”

Police have urged victims to come forward. They said the gang watch elderly or vulnerable women type in their bank PIN number into supermarket ATMs or at store checkouts.

The targets would then be approached at their car by a man wearing a knee or leg brace asking her for directions to the nearest hospital. As the the details for the hospital are being typed into the man’s phone a second man snatches the victim’s bank cards from the car.

The cards are then used to drain the account of cash.

Thieves are striking across the county and even spent £4,000 using a debit card stolen from an elderly woman in a Warminster Morrisons.

Det Sgt Alex Spargo from the community tasking team issued advice, saying: “Victims may not have reported crimes such as these as they may feel foolish for having been taken in by such a ruse but these men appear very credible using medical props to assist in their deception.

“If you have been victim of a crime, like this, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can assist you.

“Likewise, I would ask the wider public to be vigilant to crimes such as this and always report suspicious activity.

“Remember, never leave your car unlocked, your handbag unattended and always be aware of your surroundings and those who may try to distract you from your everyday tasks.”