Police warning over bogus callers threat

CALLOUS bogus callers who prey on vulnerable pensioners stole property totalling £27,000 last month in a spate of distraction burglaries across Suffolk that amounted to nearly one every day.

CALLOUS bogus callers who prey on vulnerable pensioners stole property totalling £27,000 last month in a spate of distraction burglaries across Suffolk that amounted to nearly one every day.

Since the beginning of September there have been 26 cases where burglars have tried to con their way into the homes of elderly people.

Now police are urging members of the community, especially in quiet rural locations, to be on their guard in an attempt to thwart the unscrupulous predators.

The Stowmarket area witnessed the most offences with eight distraction burglaries reported, while Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Beccles, Hadleigh, Haverhill, Ipswich, Mildenhall and Sudbury were all targeted.

Police are warning that when the caller is invited into a house, a second offender will often enter while the homeowner is with the original caller - this person will then rummage through belongings taking what they can find.

In 73% of cases the conmen have claimed to be from the 'Water board' or that there has been some sort of water emergency.

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Excuses used last month include: “If you don't let us in your house will flood, “hot water will explode from your taps” and “there is sand in the water.”

However the police and Anglian Water are keen to stress there is no such thing as the 'Water board' and the occasions when the company would need to gain access to a house are extremely rare.

Anglian Water media manager Collette Nicholls, said: “As a company we are very concerned that these criminals are using the excuse of a water emergency as a means of gaining access to people's homes and we are doing everything we can to tackle this despicable crime.

“The vast majority of our calls to homes are at the request of the customer. We follow the doorstep protocol and advise customers to stop and think before they open their doors because bogus callers are not always easy to spot.

“Our staff would never demand entry but would be quite happy to wait on the doorstep for the householder to check their identity using our freephone 0800 145 145 number.”

Meanwhile police have issued an e-fit likeness of a man involved in a distraction burglary on Wednesday at an address in Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds.

At 12.15pm a man called at the home of an 85-year-old woman saying he needed to get in to check the water.

He was allowed in the house and went to the kitchen but when he asked the pensioner to go to the bathroom and turn on the taps she became suspicious and refused.

The man left the address and was seen to meet up with two other men but nothing was stolen.

The man who tried to distract the woman is described as white, aged in his 20s, approximately 5ft4in tall, with short dark hair, smartly dressed in blue trousers and a navy long sleeved top.

Chief Inspector Julian Blazeby, head of community safety at Suffolk Police, said: “Most people who call at your home will be genuine. However there are occasions when people will turn up unannounced, with the intention of tricking their way into your home.

“These offenders tend to focus on the elderly who are perceived to be the more vulnerable and more trusting members of our community.

“It is incredibly distressing and harrowing for the victims concerned and we are determined to do everything in our power to trace these offenders and take them off our streets.

“We have had cases where people have lost their life savings and retirement fund to the heartless actions of these criminals and we must work together to ensure this does not happen again.”

He continued: “There are some very simple steps that people can take to prevent the chances of becoming a victim and thanks to the help of the East Anglian Daily Times' Safe in Your Home campaign people are now more aware and cautious of callers at the door.

“Your home is your castle and you do not want to let anybody in. The message is simple 'If in doubt keep them out and call 999'.”

Anyone who recognises the description of the distraction burglar in Horringer should contact Suffolk Police on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

A week-long campaign to beat the bogus caller in Suffolk begins on November 21.

And the EADT will be relaunching our Safe in Your Home campaign. See tomorrow's paper for details.

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