DETECTIVES have arrested a couple they suspect of stealing more than £20,000 from pensioners – including a 101-year-old woman.
And they have warned that such crimes can have fatal circumstances for the victims.
The seven suspected victims, who lived alone or in sheltered accommodation, are believed to have been targeted by a woman posing as a care worker.
As she kept the women talking, it is believed a male accomplice sneaked into their homes and stole their savings.
The incidents, which happened in April and May, across the North East, involved victims aged 74 to 101.
Police say homes were targeted in Sunderland, Alnwick, Berwick, North Shields and Gateshead.
The last incident took place at the home of an 84-year-old woman.
Shortly after the final incident a special team of Sunderland-based detectives set up to catch bogus callers arrested a man and woman at a flat in Thornaby, near Stockton.
Two people have appeared before magistrates, charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, and were remanded in custody until Friday.
The team linked up with Operation Bombay, which, since its launch in 2007, has arrested about 90 bogus callers and rogue traders responsible for stealing more than half a million pounds from elderly victims.
The 10 officers, drafted in from Durham, Northumbria and Cleveland forces, have also been able to prove the offenders have carried out numerous offences across the UK.
This has meant longer prison sentences for the criminals.
Detective Inspector Dave Wolfe, who runs the team, said: “This is a massive problem.
“People who commit these offences will travel the length and breadth of the UK.
“We have had teams commit offences from the North of Scotland down to the south east coast of England.
“The human impact is massive. While we’ll never prove a manslaughter or murder, in a minority of instances, these crimes can kill.
“We’ve had cases where victims have died within a week or two of the offences.
“Elderly people who have been conned by bogus traders stop eating and socializing. They feel violated and their confidence has been destroyed.”