THIEVES are targeting refuse bags to steal discarded financial papers in order to plunder people's bank accounts, police have warned.

Refuse bags left on the kerbside for collection are being stolen in Darlington and Middleton St George.

A youth has been seen in Middleton St George loitering around the streets when bin bags are left out. On one occasion, some bags disappeared shortly after he was seen.

Police Sergeant Mark Ralphs said there had also been incidents in Darlington where bin bags had been slashed by thieves.

He said: "They are looking for credit card details and other financial information that they can then try to use fraudulently."

Sgt Ralphs requested anyone who witnesses bin bags being tampered with to call police immediately.

He said: "We will try and get someone out straight away. If we can't catch them stealing but they are slashing bin bags the very least they can get is a £50 fine for littering."

He went on to advise people to shred any important documents before throwing them away.