ATM thieves stalk Valley

A GRAFTON man is the latest to be targeted by a gang of criminals moving through the North Coast ripping off unsuspecting ATM users.

Police on Wednesday issued a warning to Coffs Harbour residents to be wary when using ATM or eftpos machines after at least four people lost money to the gang.

That warning has now been extended to the Clarence Valley and Ballina after more incidents were reported there.

The thieves work by watching people as they enter their PIN number into an ATM or eftpos machine. They then either distract the victim after they've left the shop in order to steal their wallet, or they distract people at the ATM and snatch the card or money straight from the machine.

A 67-year-old Grafton man avoided falling victim to the scam on Prince Street on Monday.

The retiree said he was withdrawing $200 from the ATM outside the Greater Building Society when two men tried to work the scam on him.

He said he first became suspicious when he approached the ATM and asked a Mediterranean-looking man if he was using it. The man waved as if to say 'no' and the retiree started using the machine.

He said the Mediterranean-looking man stood behind him and another man stood to the side. After punching in his PIN number and requesting the withdrawal, the man beside him tapped him on the shoulder.

He said the man told him he'd dropped something and pointed to a $10 note on the ground.

The retiree remembered hearing about the scam happening in Sydney and quickly took his money and card and walked away.

“If I hadn't have heard about it I would have fallen for it but I didn't move,” he said. “I just grabbed the money out of the machine and left.”

Some people in Coffs Harbour did pick up the money, giving the thieves opportunity to snatch their ATM card and make substantial cash withdrawals.

Police have released a photo of a person of interest that was taken from surveillance footage recorded on Sunday at Park Beach Plaza, Coffs Harbour.

The man (pictured) is described as being of white/European appearance, approximately 183cm tall with a large build.

Three other people - a man and two women - are also suspected to be involved, all with European accents.

The man is described as having dark hair, Mediterranean in appearance, 175cm tall of medium build.

The women are both 160cm tall with medium builds. One is aged in her early-to-mid-40s and has blonde hair, while the other has short blonde-dyed hair and is in her mid-20s.

Police are urging shoppers to be cautious when using ATMs and to keep a look out for suspicious people loitering nearby.

Members of the public are also urged to conceal their PINs and not to disclose their PIN to anyone.

Anyone who sees people acting suspiciously in shopping centres or near ATMs, or people who may have information about the identity of the pictured man, are urged to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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