An operation to raise awareness of doorstep crime is taking place across the North East this week.
Operation Monarda is a national campaign being held across Scotland to highlight doorstep crime and to promote how the public can protect themselves from becoming a victim of this type of offence.
Doorstep crime affects some of the most vulnerable members of local communities, with perpetrators mainly targeting victims due to a perceived vulnerability, such as age, gender or disability.
There are two main types of doorstep crime - bogus callers and rogue traders.
Bogus callers try to get into a person's home or obtain personal details by pretending to be someone they’re not, including council staff, charity collectors, meter readers and police officers. In reality, they are criminals trying to steal money and valuables.
Rogue traders usually cold-call, claiming to be workers offering services such as making repairs or carrying out work on a person's house, garden or driveway. In reality they charge inflated prices for poor quality or unnecessary work.
Inspector Colin Taylor said: "Doorstep crime is typically aimed at vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly and is completely callous and unacceptable.
"We have been working closely with our partner agencies and we are committed to reducing the number of incidents of doorstep crime and keeping vulnerable people safe.
"Local officers have been running a series of roadshows to highlight doorstep crime and over the course of the last week and this week officers have been visiting premises including sheltered housing complexes, DIY stores in Elgin, Peterhead and Garthdee, and builders merchants across the division where rogue traders often source the materials to carry out their work.
"During the roadshows they have been looking to speak to members of these communities about protecting themselves from doorstep crime and handing out leaflets of guidance.
"They have also been heard on local radio warning the public of these dangers.
"Officers will this week be providing post offices, banks and building societies with guidance for their staff on being alert to vulnerable customers making unusual withdrawals.
"I would urge anyone who has close contact with potential victims - family, friends and carers - to watch out for suspicious callers or people at their doors, or any suspicious amounts of money disappearing. It is very important to pass on advice to friends, neighbours or family members who may be more likely to be targeted and provide them with the information and confidence to say no."
Key advice for the public in dealing with doorstep crime:
Keep your front and back doors locked at all times and be on guard if someone turns up unexpectedly.
Use the door viewer or nearby window when answering the door and use (or fit) a door chain or bar.
Only let callers in if they have an appointment and you have confirmed they are genuine.
Always ask for identification badges of anyone you answer the door to, but don’t rely on them. Identity cards can be faked – phone the company to verify their identity.
Some companies offer a password system. Ask your utility providers if this can be used and if you have a password with a company make sure the caller uses it
Never let people try to persuade you to let them into your home even if they are asking for help – they may not be genuine. If someone is persistent, ask them to call at another time and arrange for a friend or family member to be with you.
Never agree to pay for goods or give money to strangers who arrive at your door.
Don’t keep large amounts of money in your home.
Don’t feel pressurised into agreeing to immediate work or buying a product or service.
Don’t agree to buy from the first person who calls.
Don’t pay cash up front or offer to go and get money.
Shop around and get a few quotes if you decide you need work done and ask for recommendations from friends and family.
Ask what your cancellation rights are.