Greater Sudbury Police are warning the public to take caution when paying electronically after a pair of incidents at the city’s South End Walmart.

The trend is known as ‘shoulder surfing’. It refers to individuals who will stand over someone’s shoulder while they are paying at a check out. They watch and learn people’s pin codes and then later work to get their debit and credit cards.

"It appears these males had a strong accent and it's not usual for parties to come in from out of town and commit certain types of distraction offences and then leave town without being identified,” says Detective Chantal St. Martin with Greater Sudbury Police.

Police are calling this an act of organized crime. As for getting the payment cards, the distraction used can vary according to police. They say it can be someone asking for directions, pretending to need medical help or offering the victim money, saying they dropped it. During this moment of distraction, a second person will steal the wallet from a purse or shopping cart.

For Joan Burke, the news hits close to home as her 92-year-old aunt was a victim.

"So while she was shopping - someone lifted her purse and they had her cards so they went to a bunch of ATMs - within 20 minutes they took out ... it was a big amount of money plus the cash she had in her purse."

Police are urging the public to always be aware of their surroundings and to ensure that their belongings are secure.

"Most importantly they need to cover their PIN number when they're using it at point of sale terminals so it doesn't get into the wrong hands and also make sure no one has access to their purses or wallets or any other kind of means of financial gain."

After her aunt was affected, Burke says she plans to take advice from police very seriously.

"Definitely - that's why this is what I have, I have no purse all my cards are here on my belt - I watch all the time .... I was born and raised downtown so..."

Police say while the reported incidents have taken place in the south end, it could happen anywhere. The investigation is continuing.