Thieves have stolen nearly £5,000 from cash point users throughout Hertfordshire.

The county's police force said thieves have targeted elderly ATM users over the last few weeks.

Thousands of pounds have been reported stolen in St Albans, Welwyn Garden City, Watford and Borehamwood.

Sergeant Karen Mellor, of Hertfordshire Police, said: "We are asking for people to be on their guard when using ATM machine and be wary of anyone trying to speak to you or distract you after your card has been accepted into the machine.

"Do not use your card in the presence of others and shield your PIN when you input it.

"Be careful if someone offers to help you use a payment machine or approaches you for help with a payment, never hand your card to someone you don’t know and keep cards and wallets out of sight.

"If you think you may have been approached in a similar way, we need to speak to you, so please contact us as soon as possible."

The force said thieves worked in groups of two or more in most of the offences.

One looks out for the PIN as it is keyed into the machine, while another distracts the victim.

Sometimes, they claim the machine is broken, or say that it will swallow the victim's card while they cover the slot with a piece of paper to conceal their theft.

A Hertfordshire Police spokesperson said officers have received similar report at pay-at-pump stations and parking ticket machines.

Victims are tricked into believing their card has been retained by the machines and only notice that the card is stolen when fraudulent transactions appear on bank statements.

Witnesses to "distraction thefts" can report information to the police online ( or by phone on 101.

Alternatively, CrimeStoppers can receive anonymous reports online ( or by phone on 0800 555 111.