Operation Manhunt on the heels of fraudsters

Sue Foster talks to elderly resident

Sue Foster talks to elderly resident - Credit: Archant

Up and down the country travelling fraudsters are conning elderly people out of money in their own homes.

After a St Albans man in his 70s was duped out of £3,500 just last month, a team of police are keener than ever to stamp out such incidents.

Operation Manhunt specialises in distraction burglaries, rogue trading frauds and burglaries involving people aged 70 and over.

From dodgy roofing jobs, water board facades and even fake carer cover, conmen and women prey on elderly people in particular, cheating them out of thousands of pounds or more.

Det Insp Ben Wright, leader of Operation Manhunt, said: “They are just horrible individuals and they are selecting these people because they view them as less likely to identify them in court.

“This could be due to having restricted mobility, poor eyesight and because, sadly, although we advise them not to, a high percentage keep money in their home.”

He maintained that the people who committed such crimes were professionals, making a living out of duping vulnerable people, and were practiced in identifying potential victims.

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DI Wright went on: “Tell-tale signs for them will be disability bars, key safes, they will look at the general condition of the property and if, for example, there’s no car, it is quite unkempt, and they haven’t paid much attention to the lawn, they will draw the view that an elderly person lives there.”

He said there was a range of ruses the criminals used when committing fraud or distraction burglaries including pretending to be a care worker, a builder or an electrician or claiming they have knocked their ball over the fence and even dressing up in costume with fake badges.

DI Wright offered some tips for when a stranger came knocking. He said: “If you are not expecting a visitor, then challenge them. If you are unsure just don’t open the door. Call the police and let us know.

“We would far rather come and it is a perfectly legitimate enquiry from a gas board or whatever, than let them in and get away with money and the home owner is left feeling unsafe in their own home.

“They feel vulnerable, they question as to whether they are going to be targeted again. It’s so pervasive this sort of crime, so intrusive. It leads people who were perhaps active and spritely to feel deeply vulnerable.”

A warning was released last Monday when three suspected rogue traders were deterred from a property near Drakes Drive, St Albans.

They moved on from the property after a concerned neighbour challenged them.

DI Wright said: “Make sure your friends and family are aware of your movements when you’re in.

“Make sure that you secure your property as best possible, and if you are unsure just call the police and let us know.”

He explained that doorstep fraudsters were keen for a quick payment and would pressurise their victims to pay out on the day.

“It’s always worth getting a second opinion in. Get another professional or a family friend in to challenge and say ‘no’ that’s not the case.”

DI Wright said that people should not feel embarrassed about such incidents.“There’s a degree of pride there, but they will not be alone and they should not feel embarrassed at all.

“I’ve had people duped from doctors, to teachers and from all walks of life of all ages. These people are very convincing and this is what they do for a living.

“They’re practiced at it, they’re good at it and they get better and better the longer they do it. People just need to be vigilant.”

To find out more information about Operation Manhunt, tips and tricks, visit: www.herts.police.uk/advice/crime_prevention/bogus_callers.aspx