CHARITY shop staff are being forced to sniff bank notes in a bid to detect counterfeit notes.
Conmen have been targeting a string of charity shops in Haddington and duping unsuspecting staff with fake Bank of England £20 notes.
The crooks have been buying low-value items in the stores and then pocketing the legitimate notes and coins they receive in change.
Police have told the charity store managers the fake £20 notes are “very good copies” and have urged shopkeepers in the town to be “vigilant”.
One of the tricks being used by the gang includes spraying the dodgy notes with hair spray in a bid to bypass detector pens which can identify the fakes.
Now staff and volunteers at the Sue Ryder shop and the nearby Cancer Research store have begun sniffing any notes they take in to ensure they are genuine.
Shona McLean, manager of the Sue Ryder shop, said: “All they bought was a DVD each for £1.95. They got £18 back in change and I am really hacked off.
“They were terribly nice and we did not suspect anything.
“The police said they were very good copies but the paper is slightly different.”
And the crooks – who all spoke with an Irish accent – also scammed the nearby Cancer Research shop. On two occasions the gang paid for items worth less than £2 with the fake £20 notes before walking off with genuine cash.
Shop manager Alex Grant said: “Generally the charity shop gets targeted – I don’t know if people see it as vulnerable people helping in the shop or maybe just don’t think we have the technology to get past.”
Further incidents of businesses in the town receiving fake Bank of England £20 notes have also been reported, while there have been two instances of fake notes being passed in Musselburgh, East Lothian.
Police Scotland Inspector Ian Mackay said: “The men responsible are described as 18 or 19-years-old, white, tall, slim build, one with short, mousy brown hair and the other with short, ginger hair. They all spoke with an Irish accent.”
Inspector Mackay added he would like to raise awareness of the scam among shopkeepers in East Lothian and urged everyone to be “vigilant and wary” when dealing with Bank of England £20 notes.