'French' parking conmen back in Hampstead after pensioner defrauded out of thousands
PUBLISHED: 07:57 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:50 18 October 2018
"French" conmen in Hampstead targeting drivers at parking meters have struck again, stealing £3500 from a Highgate woman.
Sara Sharron had dropped her 89-year-old husband Monty at the Royal Free to have a blood test at 10am a week ago (Thu). After having trouble parking at the hospital, she decided to try nearby Downshire Hill.
“I feel so stupid,” said Sara, who lives in Highgate. “I was in the middle of this nightmare situation and had lost my senses.”
After she pulled up, a man in his 20s, of small build and wearing a backwards baseball cap, told her a traffic warden had seen her making a U-turn on the road, which was banned and would result in a £100 fine.
He then said the only way to avoid paying the penalty was to buy a parking ticket from a machine in Well Walk.
Sara, 78, then drove and parked in Christchurch Hill and looked for the parking meter.
Then another man, in his 30s, of heavier build and wearing a kippah, approached her to ask if she needed help. He made reference to being from France and told Sara she reminded him of his mother. The first man is not believed to have been French.
After ascertaining she was looking to buy a ticket, he directed her to a parking meter near the corner of Well Walk and East Heath Road.
She then put her first bank card in, which the machine swallowed. The man then suggested she put another in, as it would return both of them - which she also did.
The first man then returned, and asked the woman if she was OK. She was then advised to put a further card into the machine, which she did. When it swallowed her third card, the men suggested she should return at midday, when a traffic warden would come and collect change from the machine and she would get her cards back. The two men then left.
A builder, working nearby, then saw her looking distressed and advised her to cancel her cards.
However when Sara checked her bank balances at the weekend, she realised the men had taken £3500 from the three cards before she had cancelled them. She has contacted her account providers.
In July, police gave a warning after a man pretending to be a French tourist was conning locals. He would ask them to pay for his parking using their cards, on the basis he would reimburse them in cash. But the machine would swallow the cards and they would be cloned.
“The men were obviously working together,” said Sara, “and I think I was targeted.”
Camden Council said it was aware of fraudsters using parking machines to dupe people in the borough. But Parkeon, who maintain the machines, insisted none of them had been tampered with.