More than 140 OAPs targeted by doorstep conmen

MORE than 140 elderly people have been burgled by doorstep conmen in Suffolk over the past two years, new figures have revealed.

Jo Thewlis

MORE than 140 elderly people have been burgled by doorstep conmen in Suffolk over the past two years, new figures have revealed.

Police last night warned of the dangers of bogus callers as a national campaign was launched to raise awareness of the “despicable” crime.

Operation Liberal, launched this week to stamp out the cowardly crime, revealed the average age of distraction burglary victims is 81.

Cliff Horne, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, last night hit out at those who target the elderly and infirm.

“The whole thing is despicable,” he said. “It is terrible as they prey on vulnerable older people.

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“Many pensioners are slightly more trusting which is why they target them.”

A total of 73 distraction burglaries were reported in Suffolk in 2009, an increase on the previous year's total of 69.

So far, six of the crimes have been reported this year already.

Mr Cliff, 75, said he warns members of the pensioners' association to be on their guard against bogus callers, who trick or distract householders to get into their house to steal.

“The majority of older people take callers at face value,” he said. “Conmen often see older people as a soft touch.

“If they are dressed in a uniform or flash an official-looking card, they often take people in.”

A man pretending to be a plumber called at a pensioner's home in St Georges Street, Ipswich, before Christmas last year and checked taps in the kitchen and bathroom while a second person entered the house and stole �1,200 the woman had been saving for her funeral from a bedroom.

An 86-year-old woman from Kettleburgh was also tricked into handing over more than �1,000 after a conman tricked his way into her home having convinced her he was a policeman.

The elderly woman gave him the cash when he told her he was investigating counterfeit bank notes and needed to take the money away to be checked.

As part of Operation Liberal, Suffolk Police hope to raise awareness among the elderly to stop them becoming potential victims.

They urge householders to be aware of burglars by chaining their doors and checking callers credentials before letting them into their home.

Insp Chris Gilmore, a crime reduction officer with Suffolk Police, said: “The number of distraction burglaries reported in Suffolk has risen slightly over the past two years.

“Distraction burglars do not usually break in or use force of threats, rather they take advantage of a victim's vulnerability or good nature.”

Tactics such as claiming to be from the council, the police, a utility company or a health organisation are often used by the burglars to trick their way into a home.

Asking for a glass of water, to wash their hands or claiming to have lost a ball or pet in a back garden are also excuses used to get into a victim's property.

Anyone concerned about suspicious callers in their area is asked to report them to Suffolk Police on 01473 613500 or dial 999 if a crime is in progress.