The man is suspected of targeting small independent stores and charity shops by tricking staff into handing over bank notes.
He usually buys a low-value item and hands the cashier a £20 note. As he passes the note over he also hands over some loose change at the same time and asks for it to be exchanged. During the transaction he uses slight of hand and the confusion he has created to steal £10 and £20 notes.
Over the past month he has stolen from Saffrons of York, on Stonegate, Oxfam Books, on Low Petergate, and the Red Cross charity shop on Walmgate.
Officers are appealing to anyone who recognises the man, who has a distinctive tattoo on his right forearm, to come forward.
PC Hazel Simms, of York police, said:
This man appears to be very good at tricking shop staff into giving him bank notes by causing a great deal of confusion at the till.
He has been targeting shops which can ill-afford to lose money in the current financial climate and I am hoping someone will recognise him from the image and let us know who he is.
Anyone who can help officers with their enquiries is urged to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 – select option 2 – and ask for Hazel Simms, or York police.
Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.