SHOPPERS are being urged to be vigilant after fraudsters tampered with cash machines on a busy High Street.

Essex Police has launched an investigation into the incident which was first reported by a man using the external ATM machine at Barclays Bank in Witham.

The man had been attempting to take cash out but the machine failed to return the card.

Police were called to scene and soon found a piece of plastic which a metal clip hand been inserted into the card reader.

Officers believe the plastic was obstructing the victim's card and was responsible for the blockage.

They went on to inspect other cash machines in Witham High Street and found some had also been tampered with.

Following the incident, which occurred on the morning of Monday, July 8, both Essex Police and Barclays has warned anyone using ATMs to be vigilant.

A spokesman for Barclays said: "This is an industry wide issue and although we have not received any reports of our customers locally losing money as a result of these devices, it is important to be aware and vigilant at all times when using cash machines.”

Investigating officer PC Kristian Winter-Frankis, of Braintree’s Local Policing Team, added: "We believe this call helped prevent anyone from falling victim of this scam.

"We have had no further reports and we have been working closely with the banks in the area, who have taken their own action."

Barclays says anyone whose card who becomes stuck inside a cash machine should contact their card issuer as soon as possible to make them aware.

Anyone who fears a cash machine may have been tampered with is urged not to use it and instead report it immediately to police.

A force spokesman said: "We would urge people to go about their business as usual but report any suspicious activity to us on 101 or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."