CONMEN have used the recent bad weather to take advantage of the kindness of pensioners.
Tricksters knocked on doors in Wearside offering to help deliver shopping for OAPs unable to get out due to heavy snow.
Once they got their hands on the money, they made off, leaving their elderly victims frightened and shocked.
According to Northumbria Police, during December 20 con tricks were reported compared to six in the same month in 2009.
Ten of these crimes involved criminals offering to do shopping for their victims. There were also five cases of tricksters claiming to need money for a train or Metro ride home as their car was supposedly stuck in the snow.
Another two crimes involved an offer of clearing snow, presenting the opportunity to sneak into homes and steal property.
The other three offences were more “traditional”– turning up with a clipboard and pretending to be from a utilities company.
Although the December figures for “distraction offences” fell from 90 between March to December 2009 compared to 71 in the same period of 2010, Northumbria Police are concerned with last month’s spate of offences.
Sunderland Area Command Chief Superintendent Rachel Kearton, said: “These people can often seem very believable and use all sorts of ways to trick their way into people’s homes and either con them out of money or steal from them.
“Unfortunately, these people prey on vulnerable people, such as the elderly, and we’d ask anyone who has elderly friends or relatives to warn them to be extra vigilant.
“We’d urge residents to be on their guard to anyone who turns up at their house unexpectedly, whether they’re asking for help, offering assistance or claiming to be from the water board, utility company, local authority or even police. Genuine officials will always carry identification which you should always check.
“Most genuine callers will let you know they are coming beforehand and they won’t mind waiting while you check their identification to confirm that they really are who they say they are.
“If in any doubt, ask the caller to come back later so you can arrange to have someone with you when they return. Any genuine caller will understand.”