Would-be 'fishmongers' have been doorstepping Chester homes and conning people out of hundreds of pounds by selling fish.
Cheshire police are urging residents to be wary of the crooks who have been operating in the Great Boughton area in a plain white refrigerated van.
Officers have received reports that males 'in their 30s wearing plain white fishmonger jackets' sold fish to a vulnerable member of the community for £296 but on further inspection, the buyer realised the produce was only worth around £50.
The males provided no paperwork and there was no vehicle registration plate nor company name on their van.
As a result, Cheshire police have asked the public to report any other information to them, and have also issued safety advice on doorstep crime:
Safety advice from Cheshire police
From bogus callers to rogue traders, doorstep criminals are cunning, creative, and often very convincing.
Anyone can be fooled as these people are professional con artists. However, the over 60s are often specifically targeted.
What types of doorstep criminals are there?
There are two main types:
Bogus callers try to get into your 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 to sell services, make repairs or carry out work on your house, garden or driveway. In reality they charge inflated prices for shoddy or unnecessary work.
We DO NOT recommend dealing with cold-callers for property maintenance and home repairs.
How can I spot a rogue trader?
•They may tell you the work is urgent and needs to be carried out immediately.
•They will normally ask for payment there and then and may offer to come to the bank with you if you don’t have the cash at hand.
How can I protect myself from doorstep crime?
•Be on guard if someone turns up unexpectedly.
•Keep front and back doors locked.
•Use the door viewer or nearby window when answering the door.
•Fit a door chain or bar – use it and keep it on when talking to callers at the door.
•If you’re not sure, don’t answer the door.
•Don’t feel embarrassed - genuine callers expect you to be careful.
•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.
•Remember, it’s your home. There’s no reason why anyone should ever enter your home against your wishes.
•If you’re not sure, don’t answer the door.
What else can I do to stop being defrauded by a rogue trader? Trading Standards advice is:
•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 if you decide you need work done.
•Ask what your cancellation rights are.
What action should I take if someone visits me and I think they’re a doorstep criminal?
•Keep the caller out of your house, ask them to leave and call the police immediately by dialling 101.
•You might also want to try to alert a family member or attract a neighbour’s attention but you should always contact the police first by dialling 101. The police would much rather attend a false alarm than have someone fall victim to a doorstep criminal.
•If the person refuses to leave your door, or you feel threatened or scared, call 999 and ask for the police.
•Note down their description and the description of any vehicle they’re using, including make, model, colour and registration number.
How can I protect my family, friends and neighbours?
•Discuss the advice on this post with family, friends or neighbours who are older or vulnerable. There are also other things you can do to help protect them against bogus callers – everyone has a part to play to keep the community safe.
•Keep an eye open for strange vans in your neighbour's driveway.
•Make sure your relatives are not regularly taking large amounts of cash out of the bank.
•Make arrangements to ensure your relative’s house looks well maintained and, for example, that it is not immediately obvious that an older person lives there alone.
•Doorstep criminals will often target the same victim more than once, so be particularly alert if someone has previously been a victim.
•Look out for your community and report any suspicious activity immediately to Police on 101 or your local authority Trading Standards department.
•For more information on doorstep crime or assistance regarding home security contact your local Community Policing Team on 101.