Police are advising people to be alert after a spate of thefts in which the victim has been distracted by someone asking for directions.
Five incidents have been reported since the end of May across the county, including in Wellingborough.
In all of them, the victim has been approached by someone, speaking in broken English, who has asked for directions. Sometimes they have also produced a map which they have unfolded on another car.
Some of the victims have got out of their car to help – while a second thief removes bank cards, cash, purses or bags from the victim’s car.
In many of the incidents, the victim has not realised they have been a victim of crime until they returned home or the offenders have attempted to use the stolen cards.
“Thieves often use distraction techniques where some form of help is requested in a bid to obtain a small time advantage while you are focused on helping with the task,” said Paul Golley, crime prevention manager at Northamptonshire Police.
“These thieves often work in pairs. While one is distracting you, the other attempts to steal your belongings while going undetected.
“Requests for help and directions are genuine in the vast majority of cases. However thieves do sometimes use these scenarios to their advantage.”
Before you offer help, Northamptonshire Police has advised people to:
• Ensure doors and windows are locked if leaving the car for any amount of time.
• Keep all belongings either with you or out of sight.
• If you choose to help with such requests, be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
• If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Politely say you cannot help and drive away.