DISTRACTION thieves have been out and about in Herefordshire, including in Ledbury, and police are warning shoppers to beware in the run up to Christmas.

West Mercia Police are warning members of the public to be cautious of donating cash to street charity collectors without first checking whether or not they are genuine.

This follows a run of distraction thefts in recent weeks, with one case logged for Ledbury and another incident in the market town being logged as "suspicious".

A police spokesman said: "With regards to the Ledbury incidents, on Friday October 18 in Church Lane, at around midday a lady was approached by a woman claiming to be from a charity.

"The lady gave over a small donation to the collector and on being asked to show her ID to support her donation, further money was stolen from her purse."

The police spokesman added: "Also on Thursday October 24 on the High Street in Ledbury, another lady was approached by a woman asking for a donation to a charity, before she handed the money over she became suspicious of the woman and declined to donate."

Officers have received a number of similar reports of ‘distraction’ type incidents, following reports of where cash has been stolen from people who have stopped and spoken to a woman who said she was from a charity.

On Friday November 1 at around 12.30pm a man in West Croft, Leominster, a man was approached by a woman who said she was seeking sponsorship.

The man stopped and spoke to the woman and then later noticed his wallet was missing.

At around the same time on the same day a second man was approached by a woman in the High Street, Leominster, who was again seeking sponsorship. The man later noticed that cash had been stolen from his wallet.

But police have a CCTV image of the suspect in this case, and have issued it.

PC Liam Green, of Ross on Wye police said: “We are keen to talk to the lady in the CCTV image as we believe she may have information regarding the incidents."

And the Ross incident is being linked to the Ledbury incidents.

PC Green said: "It is believed these crimes are linked to similar incidents in Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye.

“Genuine charity collectors will carry identification, charity collecting tins and will not ask the person donating for ID. I’d like to urge people to be vigilant if they are approached and asked to donate money.”