Shoulder surfing scam sees drinkers robbed of hundreds

The scammers watch people enter their PIN before stealing their card
The scammers watch people enter their PIN before stealing their card
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Pub and club-goers in the Capital have been warned to be on their guard against a new “shoulder surfing” scam which has left revellers hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

Police have warned people to beware of the practice in which thieves stand behind a customer using a debit or credit card in a busy pub, club or restaurant, and watch them putting in their PIN.

They will then manoeuvre themselves close to where the customer is seated and attempt to steal their bank card from their purse or wallet.

The scam is said to have grown along with the number of people who opt to pay with a card at the bar and it is understood upmarket clubs and bars in the Capital have been targeted.

Inspector Gill Geany said: “This type of scam has not previously been a common one, at least not in the West End.

“The culprits are taking advantage of people’s vulnerability, especially when they are under the influence of alcohol.

“It’s been happening in bars and pubs where young people might frequent.

“All of the cases have been debit cards and some people have lost hundreds of pounds because the maximum amount of money has been withdrawn.

“We would ask people to be particularly vigilant in bars or clubs where it is busy and noisy and try to be aware of who might be looking over your shoulder.”

Two men, aged 23 and 25, have been arrested and charged with theft and fraud following a number of incidents in the city centre between May 10 and 13.

They are alleged to have obtained the PIN numbers of people using their debit cards to pay for drinks at bars and clubs in the city centre, before stealing their purse or wallet and using their card to withdraw cash at nearby bank machines. The accused appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday, where they were remanded in custody.

Police have also been working alongside the licensed trade to highlight the crime to staff, providing prevention advice.

Pub-goers are being advised to make sure that when they pay using their debit card, they cover the keypad.

Personal belongings, such as cards, purses, wallets and mobile phones, should remain in their possession at all times.