Bogus caller warning - Look out for elderly and vulnerable family and friends

05 Jan 2017 12:00 PM

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Northumbria Police is reiterating its message to local residents to look out for their elderly family and friends after a spate of bogus caller incidents in South Shields.

Over the past few days police have received a number of reports of a man claiming to be from the water board calling at homes unannounced. The man tells the occupant there has been a burst water pipe and he needs them to check the water pressure by turning on the taps.

While the occupant is distracted the man uses the opportunity to steal valuable items such as cash, purses, wallets or handbags.

The man is specifically targeting homes that appear to belong to elderly or vulnerable people - for example they may have a ramp or handrail to the front door. So far, the majority of reports have been in the Simonside, Brockley Whins and Whiteleas area of the town.

Many elderly or vulnerable residents may feel pressurised into letting the man into their home and police want to make sure they are aware he is fake and are asking for the public's help to look after their loved ones.

Neighbourhood officers will be carrying out additional reassurance patrols in the affected areas, as well as delivering leaflets to local residents with crime prevention advice.

Chief Inspector Jerry Pearson said: "This man is using a classic tactic of bogus callers and purposefully targeting people he believes are elderly or vulnerable and taking advantage of them. Many bogus callers use a convincing story giving occupants absolutely no reason to believe they are not who they say they are, it is only when they have left the occupants realise something was amiss and notice something valuable - such as a purse or wallet left on the work top - has been stolen.

"We want local residents to help us in making sure their loved ones don't fall victim. If you have an elderly relative, friend or neighbour, or maybe work with elderly people, please make them aware there are people calling at homes unannounced claiming to be people they are not.

"It may be worth putting a note on the back of their front door to remind them to be on their guard. If anyone calls at the door unannounced they should first check their ID is genuine, close and lock the front door while it's checked - and don't call the number given by the caller, find the number in the phone book or if really concerned ring 101. It doesn't matter if all this takes sometime, if the caller is genuine they will understand and not mind waiting, no matter how long that may be. Occupants should not feel rushed or pressurised into believing an unexpected caller, even if they do turn out to be genuine it is much better to be cautious.

"There is no problem in asking the caller to come back later so they can arrange to for someone they know and trust to come round and be there when they come back."

Police also want to remind residents while bogus callers tend to target elderly or vulnerable people, anyone can fall victim.

Ch Insp Pearson added: "The lengths bogus callers go to can be desperate and they can be incredibly convincing to take advantage of people's goodwill, even the most astute person can fall foul. We want to make sure this message gets to those who are most vulnerable but it is an important message for everyone. If anyone has any genuine concerns about someone calling at their door unannounced please let us know."

To report concerns to Northumbria Police ring 101, in an emergency or if a crime is taking place always ring 999.

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