Police are warning people in Washington to guard against bogus callers.
It comes after a man visited a home in Well Bank Road, Usworth, at 1pm on Saturday, and asked for a telephone number for the next door neighbour.
He went inside the house and then tried to distract the occupant by asking for the phone book and for a cup of tea.
The occupant was wary of the man and did not let him out of sight while he was in the house. The man then left.
He is described as white, aged 25 years or a little older, about 5ft10-5ft 11in tall. He had dark, almost black, curly hair with loose curls on top.
His appearance was described as presentable and he was wearing a dark jacket and was on a bike which had a bag on the back. The bike may have been blue in colour
Acting Inspector Les Goodliff said: "It is often the case that these bogus callers – people who use a story to attempt to be invited into a house and then try and distract the occupant with the intention of stealing anything on show – targeted those who may be vulnerable.
"We would ask anyone with elderly or vulnerable family or friends to ensure they are aware there are these people operating in the area, and that they should be on their guard.
"Our advice would be don’t let these people into the house, if they are genuine they will not mind waiting outside. If in any doubt ring police."
Anyone with information about this incident can contact Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference 827 120316 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.