Drivers are being warned to watch out for fraudsters who are hijacking bank cards at parking machines.
Richmond Council in Greater London issued an alert to residents on Thursday, after a spike in card robberies in the area.
The local authority’s parking and community safety teams said they had received several reports of parking machine bank fraud across the borough.
Criminals are tampering with payment machines – and tricking victims into entering their bank cards to pay.
Their cards are then swallowed – and later collected by the criminals for fraud purposes.
The council warned victims could lose thousands of pounds from their bank account within minutes of losing their card.
Councillor Alexander Ehmann, Chair of the Transport and Air Quality Committee for Richmond Council warned drivers should take “extra care” when using machines.
He urged drivers who believe they may have been caught out by the scam to contact their bank immediately.
Ehmann said: “Until the criminals are caught please take extra care to be on guard against scammers and tell your friends and family, who might not have seen this warning message, to be careful too.
“We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
“We will be working with local police Safer Neighbourhoods Teams to put a stop to these crimes.
“In the meantime, please try to use contactless payments or cash at parking machines or use RingGo.
“If you think you might have fallen victim to this scam, contact your bank immediately to cancel your bank card.”
The council added that it is impossible for a pay and display machine to swallow a bank card under normal circumstances – because cards can only be inserted part of the way into the payment slot.
A spokesman said drivers should be cautious if anyone approaches them when paying and should never insert a card into a parking machine when someone they don’t know is present.
A similar scam was reported in Peterborough in 2019 with two drivers losing £700 and £530 after falling foul of the offence.
In both cases, victims had their cards taken by the machine just seconds after attempting to make a payment.
Police were told the victims were both approached by a man who claimed the machine was “not accepting cash”.