Their M.O. is to engage members of the public in conversation, usually by asking for directions (often but not exclusively to Newcastle, London or Stansted), then pleading for help by saying they need money for petrol. The victim is then offered items to buy, so the situation appears to be a “win-win”. The males will sometimes embellish the story by firstly asking for directions and then stating that their ATM card does not work. Other minor variations in M.O. are:
- Offering to sell 1000 Lira in bank notes in exchange for cash, before then offering watches for sale.
- Giving watches away to thank the victim for their kindness in giving directions, before then asking for petrol money.
- Agreeing a price for a watch but then demanding more money.
- Accompanying members of the public to ATMs to get cash for the items.
These con artists often “trade” at large, out-of-town supermarket car parks, service stations or retail outlets, but have been known (especially more recently) to work from smaller towns and villages across the county. It is predicted that in the lead up to Christmas the number of offences will increase.
Please be aware that any persons selling goods in the street or from a vehicle need a Street Trading Licence (Pedlar’s licences only apply to house-to-house selling and would be invalid for street sales).
Persons with a licence must have this “clearly and publicly displayed” – without it they are not entitled to trade.
Can I ask that you pass this on to vulnerable members of your family and advise them not to accept watches or part with any money in this manner.
If you have information regarding any incidents and feel you can help please contact us on 101 or call Crimestoppers, an independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.
PCSO Mani Bujar
Histon Safer Neighbourhood Team