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Beware the supermarket car park scam

Harriet Meyer / 30 October 2015 ( 31 December 2018 )

Shoppers are being targeted by thieves who steal their bank cards in supermarket car parks in one of the latest scams.

Trolley and shopper in a supermarket car park
Be wary of anyone who approaches you in the supermarket car park

Fraudsters get hold of personal details and siphon money from the accounts of unsuspecting victims, who may not realise their card has been stolen until it’s too late. 

In some of the worst cases, thousands of pounds has been taken from accounts before the theft of the card was noticed.

How does it work?

Thieves watch as their victims enter their pin numbers at supermarket checkouts. This is known as “shoulder surfing” by police. Typically known for being a technique used at cashpoints before a card is snatched, it’s also spreading to supermarkets and other stores.

Beware of thieves working in pairs, following victims to the car park before finding a way to distract them. This may, say, be asking for directions, or pointing out a supposed flat tyre. Meanwhile their accomplice steals the victim’s wallet.

Five ways to avoid scams at the cash machine

How to avoid becoming a target

Preventative measures are easy to take that will leave you less vulnerable to these types of scams.

• Guard your pin. Check for anyone watching over your shoulder as you punch in your pin number at the checkout, and make it as difficult to see the numbers as possible. Get into the habit of shielding your pin at all times.

• Be wary of anyone who approaches you in the car park and keep your wallet on your person in a place that makes it difficult to snatch.

• If you are approached in a car park, be on your guard. If you can, park as close to the store as possible to make it a quick journey to your car. If you are shopping in the evening, try to park under a light. Try to avoid dark corners or areas that are not within view of the supermarket's main entrance. 

• Don’t write down your pin anywhere, or keep a note of this in your wallet. There’s little point shielding your pin if you’ve written it in an easy-to-find location for thieves.

• If you find your card missing, report it immediately to your bank. Check that all recent withdrawals were done by you, and monitor any statements.

Don't fall victim to a 'crash for cash' scam

If you fall victim to a scam

Make a note of the time and date of the incident, and report it to the police. 

If you think you’ve been a victim of potential fraud or find your card stolen after a scam, you can report it online at or call 0300 123 2040.

What to do if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft

Saga readers say...

'Sadly the supermarket scam is still happening: a friend of mine was caught by one in late 2018. She was distracted by one of the gang saying her car had been hit, while another person opened the passenger door and took her bank card. She realised when she got back into the car and drove off; her passenger door wasn't shut properly and her purse was hanging out of her bag. By the time she managed to stop and call the bank they had taken £1000 from her account. So someone had been watching her from the till, saw her pin number and followed her to her car. A couple weeks later there was another report in the local news.'  Hilary, via Facebook

Don't get caught by this car park scam either...

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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