Police are investigating the theft of thousands of pounds from women’s bank accounts after their cards and phones were swiped from gym lockers.
A mystery fraudster is suspected of lifting belongings from gyms across London, before splurging thousands at high-end shops such as Selfridges, Harrods and the Apple Store.
The sophisticated scam has seen women lose as much as £10,000, with their bank accounts drained of life savings while they exercise.
In a Twitter thread, one woman named Charlotte told of the “nightmare” experience that left her financially and mentally “broken”.
Charlotte was at a Virgin Active gym in London on August 24 when someone broke into her locker and stole her rucksack, containing her phone, bank card and key.
The thief then reset her Santander online banking details and transferred thousands from her life savings to her current account, before going on a “whistle-stop” shopping spree.
They spent £3,000 at the Apple Store in Westfield, then another £1,000 at Apple on Regent Street.
They then headed to Selfridges, where they took another £700 of items to the till. Santander flagged this as fraud, but the fraudster was able to approve the transaction.
Charlotte said two fellow gym-goers also had phones, money and keys stolen from their lockers.
Scotland Yard says it is investigating “a number of similar offences”, but refused to say how many.
At least seven other London women have told a BBC investigation they were targeted in similar incidents.
Speaking to Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme You and Yours, one woman named Alina told how her belongings were stolen from a Virgin gym in Finchley Road last month.
The thief spent about £10,000 across Harrods and Covent Garden’s Apple Store. They then tried spending a further £10,000 but Alinah had by then blocked her cards.
After a distressing and frustrating week, I need to talk openly about something that happened to me (which could happen to you, too).
It's broken me - both financially and mentally - but I'll attempt to explain calmly and rationally. Strap yourself in, etc...
— Charlotte Morgan (@MorganBroadcast) August 29, 2022
They also spent her money on food and taxi journeys, and withdrew cash from ATMs.
Another woman named Harriet told the BBC how she was targeted at GymBox in Lombard Street, in the city.
Within 90 minutes of her locker being raided, the thief had spent £7,500 at high-end stores Selfridges, Harrods, Balenciaga and Apple.
It is thought the thief is likely to be female, as they are able to repeatedly access women’s locker rooms without rousing suspicion.
The BBC contacted the Met Police with its findings and the force is now investigating whether the cases - some of which had previously been closed - could be linked.
A Met Police spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of a number of similar offences in which property has been stolen from gym lockers and bank cards then used to make fraudulent purchases.
“Each offence is now being re-assessed and where appropriate, these will be investigated as part of a linked series.
“The victims in each case will be contacted by officers and provided with updates as the investigation progresses.
“Anyone with information or who believes they have been subject to a similar burglary should call police on 101.”