Vulnerable people often targeted by distraction burglars after easy pickings are being urged to stay savvy about the winter tricks used by callous crooks.
As the evenings draw in, police are encouraging people – particularly the elderly – to be on guard for bogus callers taking advantage of the colder weather to trick homeowners into letting them in.
According to officers in the force-wide Operation Manhunt, which aims to clamp down on such incidents, criminals use various excuses to get into a house, such as investigating frozen or burst water pipes.
Once inside, the heartless con artists distract the victim before stealing and making off with money and valuables.
Although distraction burglaries have gone down by 64 per cent in Herts since April, Det Insp Kay Lancaster warned: “Now the nights are drawing in, particularly with the clocks changing, and the weather getting colder, these criminals will tend to use the ‘frozen or burst pipes’ method to get into a home to steal.
“We have had a great reduction in crime with 31 fewer victims since April, compared with the same period last year.
“This is down to education, ensuring previous victims are given the right support and security measures, and relentlessly targeting those who we believe are involved.
“But we must not be complacent. These people will target the elderly, who sadly are more trusting and easily convinced.”
Det Insp Lancaster advises not answering the door if someone you aren’t expecting or don’t recognise comes to your home.
If possible, speak to the caller and ask them to return at a time when you have someone you trust with you, and always ask for identification if they return. Police also discourage people from keeping large amounts of cash in their homes.
Bogus charity callers can also target people for cash.
Disabled Peter Smith, 79, of Bovingdon, practised police advice when confronted with a caller who claimed they were collecting for a charity at around 8pm on a Saturday.
Not being confident the caller was genuine, Mr Smith refused to let them in or give them any money.
He said: “It was an unusual time for a charity to be calling and I was a bit suspicious.
“I just want to warn other people, if there is that kind of thing about, to close the door.”