FOLLOWING the convictions of a gang at Gloucester Crown Court last week for cashpoint card scams, police are urging the public to be on their guard.

Sri Lankans Kusalakumar Sithambarapillai, Basheer Ebrahim, Ashok Balasubramanian, and Thanfavel Vilvanadham, from Hayes and Croydon, all received prison sentences for cashpoint scams in Gloucestershire.

Targeting cashpoint machines all across Gloucester and Cheltenham last summer, their method was to insert devices into the machines to trap cards and record the PIN numbers.

These were then used to steal money from the owners, amassing several thousand pounds in the process.

In another successful prosecution in recent months three Romanians were jailed last July, after they admitted stealing bank customers' cards and PIN numbers in Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The trio hid a mobile phone camera above the PIN keys of an automatic telling machine (ATM) and installed another machine which swallowed the card, before withdrawing cash illegally.

Last October a Wolverhampton man committed a classic distraction theft after he duped two elderly Cheltenham women in their 80s out of hundreds of pounds.

He watched them their PIN numbers at a supermarket checkout then stole their cards while they were distracted, taking a total of £870.

PC Annabel Brittain, who has investigated various cases, said they would leave no stone unturned in investigating the crimes, which were often targeting vulnerable, elderly people.

“We all have a part to play by making it impossible to commit such crimes. It’s vital to cover up your PIN at a cash-point or at shop checkouts," she said.

“These criminals exploit people’s good nature by asking for help, diverting their attention while their card is stolen.

"Don’t be distracted from your valuables, keep your cards either in a secure inside pocket or a bag which fastens securely and don’t leave the bag unattended while you return your trolley.”