We are appealing for information following eight incidents in Preston and South Ribble where men posing as bogus officials have got into the homes of elderly people and stole money.
The men have shown identification, purporting to be from official organisations such as housing associations or utility companies.
The most recent incident happened last Tuesday (January 20th) on Old Hall Drive in Bamber Bridge when a man tricked his way into a house, distracted an elderly man, 88, and stole £180 cash. He is described as white, around 5ft 7ins, with a scruffy, unshaven appearance and was wearing a cap.
On Saturday (January 18th), a man acting as a police officer has told a woman, aged 71, to go to the upstairs of her address in Ribbleton, Preston whilst he stole her purse. He was white, around 5ft and spoke with a local accent.
Two days before (Thursday, January 16th), a man with an Irish accent and in his fifties, talked his way in to a woman’s house in Carlisle Street, Preston, saying he was there to inspect the walls of the property. He has asked the woman, 91, for some money for a bus. She refused and he left. He is believed to be white, around 5ft 8in and of slim build and was wearing dark clothing.
The same day (Thursday, January 16th), a man pretending to be from a housing association again, asked to inspect the walls of a home in the Plungington area of Preston. He has told the victim, a 57-year-old, visually impaired man, that he can save him money on his bills and offered decorating services. The offender - described as white, in his late fifties, wearing a flat cap and spoke with an Irish accent - left when the victim said they were expecting a visit from someone.
There were two more incidents on Thursday January 9th, one of which was in Ashton, Preston. A man purporting to be from a housing association said he needed to check the walls of a property where a woman, 88, lives.
When the victim was in her bathroom, the thief stole jewellery and £500 cash. He is said to be white, around 5ft 3ins, with curly, collar length hair and a scruffy appearance. He spoke with an Irish accent and was wearing a high visibility jacket.
The second burglary on the same day was in Deepdale, with a similar story told to the victim, an 88-year-old woman. When inside, the man stole money from the woman’s handbag. He was white, aged 40 to 50, wore a dark jacket, dark trousers along with dark shoes and spoke with an Irish accent.
Two days previously (Tuesday, January 7th), a man conned his way into the home of a 92-year-old woman in Ingol. Again, he claimed to be from a housing authority. Fortunately, nothing was stolen. He is believed to be white, in his mid-twenties and was wearing a brown jacket.
Later that day on the same street, a number of men were seen knocking on doors, asking elderly residents whether they need work doing on their property.
On Saturday, January 4th, a man described as white and in his thirties with an Irish accent, talked his way into the home of an elderly woman and stole a purse and bank cards.
PC Tim Phillips from Preston Police said: “These are despicable crimes against vulnerable and elderly victims.
“These con artists have been posing as people from genuine organisations to be allowed in people’s homes where they have distracted or confused their victims with a story, to take their purses, money and jewellery.
“Despite current reports being confined to the Preston and South Ribble, these people may try elsewhere and so I am reminding people to be vigilant and if you get this type of visitor, report it to the police immediately on 999.
“People who commit these offences will often target the elderly posing as officials to gain their confidence and trust. If you have an elderly friend or relative, please let them know that this happening so they can avoid becoming a potential victim.”
Police are offering the following advice:
- Before answering the door, stop and think whether you are expecting anyone
- Never agree to have any work done by someone who is just passing
- Ensure that your back door is locked if answering your front door to someone you don’t know
- Beware of anyone who says that they are in a hurry or it is an emergency, if you are in any doubt about a caller close the door and contact neighbours, friends or the police straight away
- If you have a door chain or spy hole use it until you are absolutely sure who is calling
- Check their identification and uniform. If you are still not sure call the organisation neighbour or police
Alternatively independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at Crimestoppers-uk.org.
If you believe there is a bogus official on or in your property now, please call 999 immediately.