SEVERAL Ledbury shops took a hit to profits last week, thanks to visiting criminals who used distraction tactics to pass fake £50 notes.

One of the shops targeted was Sweet Memories in The Homend, but the Reporter understands that at least three other local businesses were affected, and there could be more.

Police believe two men from outside the area were involved, and that is also the view of local traders, who did not recognise the people involved with the scam.

Dave Gladwin, owner of Sweet Memories said a fake £50 note was passed to one of his staff, while he was away from the counter.

He said: "One man came in and he waited until a few people were in the shop, so he would be served quickly. He used a £50 note for a £4 sale. It was a distraction tactic, really.

"It was a fake Scottish note, and my staff member did not know what to look for, really. It was done in the heat of the moment."

By sheer bad fortune, Sweet Memories received a 'ring round' shop alert, just minutes after the culprit left the shop.

The alert from shop to shop warned that fake £50 notes were being passed in the town.

Mr Gladwin said his shop would be accepting no more £50 notes from now on, especially because the fake ones are sometimes hard to spot.

He said: "I understand they were showing up as OK on the special pens we use to check.

"This was a big loss for us."

Town Councillor, Annette Crowe, herself a Homend trader and organiser of the regular PACT meetings between the community and the police said: "We are all small businesses working on short margins, and £50 can be a huge amount from profits, especially in the quiet months.

"Small towns are targeted because they think we are easy prey. We need to catch these people. They came into town just to do this."

Ledbury PC Nick Green said the incidents all took place on Wednesday April 4.

He said: "A number of shops in Ledbury were visited by two males who tried to use £50 notes to make purchases. Fortunately many of the stores refused to accept the note, which is good to hear.

"This is a rare crime, but periodically those using the notes will target a particular town before moving on."

One of the offenders was described as being white and 5ft 6 inches tall, and aged from 35 to 50 years of age. He was of a skinny build and wore a baseball style cap , blue jeans and grey hoody.

PC Green added: "We would urge all retailers to be particularly careful when £50 notes are offered, as these are still not printed on polymer."

On a proper £50 note, there is a metallic thread embedded in every banknote. If you hold the note up to the light, the metallic thread appears as a continuous dark line.

The note should have five windows along its length, which contain images of the £ symbol and the number 50.

PC Green added: "When you tilt the note from side to side, the images move up and down. When you tilt the note up and down, the images move from side to side and the number 50 and the £ symbol switch. You will also feel raised print in areas such as the words 'Bank of England' and in the bottom right corner, around the number 50.

"Look at the front of the note under a good-quality ultraviolet light to see the number 50 appear in bright red and green. The five windows of the motion thread also appear in bright green."

Enquires are on-going to trace the men involved, and any information can be provided on 101 - incident reference 0468s 040418.