TRADERS are on red alert after a man visited several shops on different days claiming he needed money to free his clamped car in different roads in Folkestone town centre.
The owners of Déjà Vu, a second-hand furniture shop in Grace Hill, gave the man £25, while others in Sandgate Road and Rendezvous Street were asked for up to £125 but refused.
The man, who is in his thirties and is believed to be local, went into shops on June 9 and 10 pleading to use their phones after being "clamped". He told some traders his car was in The Bayle and others that it was on Tontine Street.
He claimed he wanted to call a family member to get them to rescue him as the car was about to be towed away, more than doubling the price of the fine, and that he feared he would lose his job without the vehicle.
The Herald understands several traders allowed him to use their phones, but most refused to stump up when he asked them for cash.
But when he offered to leave his watch behind in Déjà Vu as proof he would return – claiming it was worth £500 – the owner relented and handed over £25.
A spokesman for the shop said this week: "I wouldn't give my son £25 if he asked for it, so why did I do it for a complete stranger? He sucked me in, it makes you feel like an idiot."
Bizarrely, the man did call Déjà Vu afterwards claiming he was on his way to return the money, but the owners have not heard from him or seen him since.
Andy Burnett, who runs Mr Baguette in Sandgate Road, was also approached and let the man use his phone, as did the owner of No.1 Rendezvous Street, an interiors and homeware shop.
Mr Burnett said: "After he left I went round to The Bayle with the intention of having a word with the clamper.
"But there was no sign of any car, it was deserted, and then talking to other traders the next day I found out I wasn't the only one who'd been approached.
"I'm glad not many people paid up, but then again, how many independent shops have £125 to give away?"
PC Andy Faiers has visited the shops taking statements as well as CCTV footage from Mr Baguette and the watch from Déjà Vu.