A conman stole “a significant quantity of cash” from an elderly woman in Hollingdean yesterday afternoon (Thursday 14 June).
The theft came about half an hour after a bogus workman tried it on at a house in Whitehawk.
Sussex Police believe that the same man and another conman may have targeted pensioners at two other homes in Horsham and Lewes earlier in the day.
Similar offences were reported in Horsham and Hartfield last Saturday (9 June) and last Friday (8 June) respectively.
The force warned the public, especially the elderly, to be on their guard and said: “The bogus callers have been calling at homes and asking to look at water and gas supplies saying there has been an explosion or contamination which has affected them.
“They ask the householder to turn on the taps or put on their gas appliances to check.
“They keep the householder talking and close the kitchen or lounge door.
“An accomplice then goes upstairs and makes a search of the bedrooms.
“Victims have had large amounts of cash stolen.”
The conman who called at house in Wilson Avenue, Brighton, at about 3pm claimed that some cowboy builders had broken a nearby gas main.
He asked the woman to run some water and also to boil some to check that it wasn’t contaminated.
At this point she became suspicious. When the man asked if he could return later she said no.
When he left, she checked with the gas supplier who said that there was no emergency. She then called the police. Nothing appears to have been stolen from her home.
The conman was described as a slim white man, 5ft 9in tall, in his late twenties or early thirties and with short black hair.
He was wearing a white shirt with navy stripes and dark blue trousers.
At about 3.30pm a man knocked on the door of an elderly woman’s home in Stephens Road, Brighton, and said that there had been an explosion “in The Dip”.
As a result, he said, the water would need to be run off and put into containers as it would be turned off for a day or two.
At one point he went upstairs to check the bathroom and toilet and then left saying that he would be back in about an hour.
The woman then found that he had been in her bedroom and had stolen a significant quantity of cash.
This bogus caller has been described as a slim white man, English, in his thirties, with short, very dark brown or black hair. He was wearing a white shirt with dark trousers.
He told his elderly victim that he had two children.
On both occasions, the suspect was wearing some form of identity card in a plastic sleeve, but the details were not distinguishable.
Inspector Bill Whitehead said: “We need people to be aware that these bogus callers are targeting the elderly, using this particular line or story of water and gas supply contamination.
“They seem to be wearing some sort of ID cards around their neck.
“This is a despicable crime preying on the more vulnerable members of our community.
“We particularly need to get a description or registration number of a vehicle they must be using.”
He said that anyone with information should call Sussex Police on 101.
Inspector Whitehead added: “Householders should closely check ID badges before allowing anyone into their home.”
He said that if they were in any doubt, they should refuse entry until they have checked with the company.
A genuine caller won’t mind waiting and will provide a telephone number – not a mobile – for you to call.”
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