Police Scotland Tayside Division is alerting all staff at retail outlets, post offices, petrol stations and banks to be on their guard against the scam – commonly known as Ringing the Changes.
A crime involving sleight of hand, thieves aim to confuse and or distract staff into giving them extra money away when asking them to change notes.
The warning follows three incidents yesterday (Wednesday, October 30) in Broughty Ferry, Barnhill and Monifieth.
Two men in their 30s of Asian appearance entered the Co-Op on Claypotts Road, Broughty Ferry shortly after 6.30 p.m. One of them went up to the till and asked the staff member to swap denominations for him, while the other man appeared to be fooling around with a Halloween witches hat.
Notes were exchanged, the men left and it was later discovered they had taken an additional two-figure sum of money.
One of them was about five feet six inches tall, stocky and wore a black leather jacket, white shirt, dark trousers. The other man was about five feet ten inches tall, slim and wore a blue jacket with grey sleeves.
At 6.50 p.m., two men fitting the same description were seen to park a silver car in Dalhousie Road, Barnhill, and go into Tesco Express. Again, one of them played with Halloween hats on display, while the other asked to exchange notes. Once they had gone, staff realised they had left with a further two-figure sum of cash.
Minutes later, two men of Asian appearance entered Tesco Stores at High Street, Monifieth. Both were dressed in dark clothing and one wore a black witch’s hat. One of them produced a large bundle of notes to a staff member and asked to exchange them for other denominations. Suspicious of their motives the staff member declined their request and they left.
The fraud, known as ‘Ringing the Changes’, commonly involves shop staff being persuaded into exchanging denominations of what can be substantial sums of money with a seemingly innocent customer.
The reality is that, the customer and any associates are well-practised criminals who rely on some well-rehearsed patter, distraction and sleight of hand to take advantage of the shop worker’s good will. Very often it is only when the so-called customer has left that the deception is discovered.
Variations on the theme include receiving change and then immediately cancelling the transaction while failing to return an amount of cash; changing money to foreign currency accepting it and then cancelling the deal and not returning a portion of the money.
A Tayside Division spokesman said: “We appeal to all retailers and their staff, as well as employees at post office, petrol stations and banks would urge all retailers to be on their guard.
“The pressures of serving in a busy premises and the desire to provide customer satisfaction can offer the ideal set of circumstances for this type of hustle. The fraudster is trying to profit on people’s willingness to help and the art of distraction.
“But please be suspicious of any customer requesting large denomination notes be changed, or who wishes to cancel transactions once cash is on the counter. If you are faced with such a scenario you should try, if possible, to call on a colleague for assistance. Ultimately, if you have any doubts or suspicions, refuse the request.”
Anyone who has information that could assist the police investigation in to recent Ringing the Changes incidents should call Police Scotland on 101, or speak to any officer.