SHOPPERS in Monash are being targeted by a gang that steals large sums of money while posing as good Samaritans.
Gang members identify as potential victims people who have recently withdrawn money from the bank, then distract their victims by brazenly slashing their car tyres.
In a sophisticated ruse, one gang member will offer to help change the tyre while an accomplice makes off with the cash.
Police said the gang of five men had been targeting residents and business owners in a series of daylight robberies around Clayton and Glen Waverley.
Detective Constable Gavin Devine of the Monash criminal investigation unit said the con was low-key but well-practised.
"As far as we're concerned, it's definitely a well-organised group of individuals who have been targeting not only NSW but down here as well," he said.
In the past six weeks, the gang has struck four times:
■ October 2, Clayton
A woman and her son were driving home after withdrawing money when they noticed they had a flat tyre.
She pulled over on Springs Road in Clarinda and as her son was changing the tyre, a man approached her and struck up a conversation. When the man left, she noticed that her handbag with the money was missing.
Detective Devine said that while police had CCTV footage and images of the alleged thieves, they were yet to be identified. Police believe two of the thieves speak with South American accents. The others have Australian accents.
Detective Devine called for residents to be vigilant and encouraged them to use bank cheques when withdrawing large amounts of money.
"People appear to be reluctant due to the fees involved. But at the end of the day, the $7 bank cheque fee is a lot better than losing a considerable amount of money."
■ August 14, Clayton
A business owner had withdrawn a large sum of cash for wages from a bank in Clayton and put it into his jacket. He was driving back to work and noticed he had a flat tyre. As he was changing the tyre, he was approached by a man and who told him he had a stain on his jacket. The business owner took off the jacket and put it in his car. He went back to work and later in the day he noticed that his front passenger window had been smashed and the money was stolen.
■ July 4, Glen Waverley
A woman who had withdrawn cash was driving home. At a red light, she noticed a man get out of the car behind her.
He approached her car and she heard a noise but could not see what he was doing.
When the lights changed, she drove away and noticed she had a flat tyre.
Another man offered to help change the tyre and as the victim went to the back of the car, the man grabbed her handbag and ran towards Springvale Road.