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'If in doubt, keep them out'

Cold callers may be bogus traders or burglars Photo: PA

People are being told to be cautious about cold callers who offer to make repairs to their roof or other parts of their property.

'Cold calling is the name given to activity carried out by bogus callers and rogue traders who call uninvited to people’s homes under the appearance of legitimate business or trade. This type of crime is simply despicable, to prey on people in their own homes; especially where the victim is elderly or vulnerable.'

– Sgt Tony Kirkbride of North Cumbria’s Community Safety Unit

Cumbria Police have received a number of calls regarding rogue traders. In a number of recent cases in Carlisle and Penrith, a man has claimed that some work was needed on the roof, meanwhile talking his way inside the house. It is believed he then was able to search rooms and steal money.

In other cases, the man has made claims that the repairs would cost a large amount of money and wanted the money in advance. Two distraction burglaries happened in the West of Carlisle on 22nd August, in Penrith on 13th August and another in West Cumbria.

Carlisle Police wish to speak to a male in connection with these crimes. He's described as being:

  • Around 40 years old
  • Dark hair
  • Drives a small white van

'In addition to being criminal, the work of these cold callers and bogus traders may be totally unnecessary and can be at a very high price. If any work is actually undertaken, it is usually of a very poor quality and may often actually cause damage to properties that wasn’t there in the first place.

The financial cost to victims can be in the hundreds, even thousands of pounds, in addition to the anxiety and distress caused by these kind of cold callers and bogus traders. They will often use the opportunity to get into people’s homes to steal valuable items and money, causing further distress - this is known as distraction burglary.'

– Sgt Tony Kirkbride of North Cumbria’s Community Safety Unit

Although police say that this type of crime is rare in Cumbria, there are a number of ways people can protect themselves:

Lock, Stop, Chain and Check

  • Lock - Check that the back door is locked each time someone knocks at the door or rings the bell. Bogus callers may have an accomplice who may try enter the house via the back door whilst you are distracted
  • Stop - Don't open the door until you've looked through a window or door viewer to see who's on the doorstep. Police are reminding people that they do not have to open their door to anyone, especially someone you don't know or aren't expecting. If the caller looks suspicious or you are frightened, keep the door locked and call the police on 101
  • Chain - If you need to speak to the caller, use a door-chain. Don't open the door unless you put the chin on first so that you can see the person and ask what they want and who they are. Then close the door and do the following:
  • Check - Check their identity. If they say they are from a utility company, then use the number on your bill to ring the utility company and ask them to confirm their engineer or meter reader etc. is meant to be there; the company will usually have written to you to confirm they will be working in the area. Utilities companies tend to operate a password scheme that the caller at your door would know and tell you – if they are genuine. If they don’t know the password or claim to have misplaced it then do not tell them it and don’t let them in.
TV presenter Angela Rippon promoting the Home Office Credit: PA

People can also send and receive messages about warnings and appeals for information crime or anti-social behaviour in their area by registering with the Cumbria Community Messaging service via a Neighbourhood Policing Team.

Anyone with information regarding bogus traders or these crimes are encouraged to contact the police or Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454040506.