A thief with a stolen money card has fleeced a 92-year-old Whangarei woman of more than $10,000 by making withdrawals at money machines and buying Fanta and chips from service stations and putting her $1000 into overdraft.
It is not yet known how the card fell into the thief's possession but it is believed they got her pin number by spying over the cardholder's shoulder moments as he entered the digits.
The woman's 70-year-old son spoke to the Northern Advocate about the devastating theft and cautioned others to take extreme care when punching in pin numbers in public places.
The man, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said he had been with his wife and mother at a busy cafe at Springs Flat when the eftpos card was last used legally.
He said he had power of attorney over his mother's accounts and helped her use her money card as she found it difficult to stand and arthritis in her fingers had made it very difficult for her to punch in the numbers on a keypad.
"Mum decided because there were so many people in the cafe she wouldn't take her handbag but locked it in the car. She gave me the card and I put it in my pocket.
"She shouted lunch and I paid for it using her card. I gave her card back to her."
It's then unclear how the card was lost or stolen. But it fell into the hands of a man who had obviously watched the security pin numbers being punched into the machine at the cafe.
"Mum may have put it in her jacket pocket ... she's more careful than to just leave it on a table," he said.
It was days later that she realised the card was missing and she tipped her home upside down but couldn't find it.
Her granddaughter took her to the bank and reported the card stolen only to be given the bad news all her cash savings had gone and she was nearly $1000 in overdraft.
Over the course of a week the man made a string of withdrawals - some were $2000 - at Kiwibank at Te Mai Shops on Maunu Rd, at ASB Kensington Ave, Kensington, BNZ Kiripaka shops, Tikipunga, ASB Gillies St, Kawakawa, Mobil Tikipunga and Z Energy Kensington.
"She's devastated. She says she's not but ... she's weeping and not sleeping well at all."
He confirmed the bank was investigating a refund and he hoped he would know by the end of the week.
He said it served as a reminder for everyone using eftpos or automatic teller machines to take care.
"I've always tried to be careful but obviously not careful enough. For the sake of others and maybe saving someone from this trauma I hope he is caught," he said.
Police have released security camera photos of the wanted man. It is obvious from the pictures he is very aware of the security cameras and has pulled a hood over his head and not looked up towards the cameras.
Whangarei police Constable Adam Groves said the man had been wearing a large ring on the index finger of his left hand. It appeared he had new clothes including blue adidas high top shoes with white soles.
"It's a warning when using money cards to keep pin numbers concealed because you never know who could be looking over your shoulder," Mr Groves said.
The Banking Ombudsman website says while banking service providers will typically cover any loss if you have taken reasonable care of your card and pin and reported any loss to them promptly.
If you have any information, please contact Whangarei police 09 4304500 or 0800 CRIMESTOPPERS.