FRAUDSTERS are again targeting York cash machines, in a highly sophisticated bank card scam.

Police are warning bank customers to be on their guard, after two card machines were targeted by criminals looking to clone cash cards.

Lloyds Bank in St Helen's Square alerted police after reports of a man having fitted their machine with a cloning device at around 11am last Tuesday.

In a second incident, a woman customer removed a device from a cash machine at the Royal Bank of Scotland on Clifford Street, at about 6.30pm on Friday.

On that occasion a man - who is believed to be the scammer - then barged into her and snatched the equipment before making off.

It is not believed any money was taken in either case, but York Police are warning customers to be vigilant and to report incidents rather than tamper with the machines.

In both incidents, police are hunting a man who fits a similar description, although it is not certain at this stage whether it is the same man.

At Lloyds the man was described as white, of stocky build, about 6ft tall, with short brown hair, wearing light blue jeans, brown shoes and a light brown jacket.

The offender at the Bank of Scotland is described as around 6ft 2ins tall, with short brown hair, and wearing jeans and a large jacket.

Sergeant Chris Poole, of York Police, said: "This is a countrywide problem and it seems that these scammers are targeting busy city centres more and more. We are talking about potentially large amounts of money and large penalties if these people are caught, so it is not wise for members of the public to challenge them.

"Anyone who thinks there is anything suspicious about a certain cash point should first go into the bank and report it immediately, and then contact the police."

In December, the Evening Press reported at least 20 people were caught out, when it is thought a cloning device was inserted into the ATM machine outside the same branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Close examination of the victims' accounts showed this particular machine to be the only common link between them.

This led police to believe a criminal gang inserted the gadget into the ATM on December 9, removing it a few days later. They believed those responsible placed a false cover on the machine with a device to read cards, and a hidden camera to film PIN numbers.

Cash was then withdrawn in London, with fraudsters stealing on average between £300 and £500 from each victim.

Anyone who has any information or may have witnessed the latest incidents should phone York Police on 0845 6060 247.

Updated: 10:18 Tuesday, February 14, 2006