A spree of robberies against elderly people in Northamptonshire - including one in which a woman was held down with a cloth in her mouth - has prompted police to issue a warning over cold callers.
The force is urging pensioners not to open their door to people they are not expecting - after confirming there has been more than 50 reports of robberies and distraction burglaries involving victims aged 65 since January 1.
Sometimes distraction techniques have been used, such as claiming to be from the water board, but on other occasions vile criminals have used brute force to get into homes.
Northamptonshire Police says, while the majority of these have happened in the Northampton area, incidents have also been reported in other parts of the county, including Kettering and Wellingborough.
Detective Inspector Danny Gasson, leading the investigation into the offences, said: “With the number of offences reported in the past couple of months where the victims have been 65 or over, often much older, it’s clear that some offenders appear to be targeting the homes of elderly or vulnerable victims.
“The methods vary. In some incidents, the offenders have knocked at the door and persuaded the victim to open it by saying they’re from the ‘water board’ or an official in some capacity. Then, as soon as the door has been part opened, they have forced their way in.
“Others have been typical distraction type burglaries, where the offender has called at the house and ‘conned’ their way in, and then an accomplice has carried out the burglary.
“This is a particularly concerning series of offences due to the potential vulnerability of the victims, and we are working hard to try and identify the offenders responsible. Fortunately, no-one has been seriously hurt but the victims have understandably been left extremely shaken and upset following these incidents.”
DI Gasson is urging people to be extra vigilant and not to open the door to unexpected callers.
“If you’re not sure, don’t open the door – anyone calling in an official capacity will understand,” he said.
“I would also ask people report anything suspicious or call us if they have any information about who may be involved in these offences.”
Last week a woman in her 60s was attacked in her own home by two men claiming to be from the water board. they held her down with a cloth in her mouth when she threatened to call police.
Witnesses to any incident, or anyone with information about the people involved or the vehicles they use, are asked to call Northamptonshire Police on 101. Alternatively, they can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Northamptonshire Police has issued advice in light of the robberies:
Make sure you can see who is at the door before you answer it. Where possible fit a spy-hole to identify callers. Alternatively talk to them through an adjacent window.
Don’t feel pressured into opening the door. Don’t feel you are being rude, genuine callers won’t mind. If you’re not sure, don’t open the door.
Set up passwords with your utility companies – genuine callers will need to recite this password to you.
Don’t use telephone numbers on ID cards – if the person isn’t genuine the ID and the telephone number won’t be either. Obtain telephone numbers direct from the phone directory. Alternatively make a list of your important numbers and keep them near the phone.
If someone is knocking on the door saying they are the police, call 101 and check the identity with the police control room. In an emergency call 999.
Look out for those who are vulnerable within your family or neighbourhood.
In Northamptonshire, many agencies have come together to form the Doorstep crime Action Network (DAN). If you have any suspicions or concerns that doorstep rogue traders or distraction burglars are operating in your community or targeting someone you know, please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated doorstep crime hotline: 0345 23 07 702
Distraction burglars or ‘bogus callers’ will call at a house with the intention of tricking their way inside to steal money and/ or other valuables. They may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the water board, the council, the police, health organisations or charities.
They may say they need to turn off the water because of a leak, use the phone because their car has broken down, or perhaps say they have lost a pet. The caller may be a man, a woman or even a child and they will use any story they can to try and gain access to the property.