Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge residents have this week been urged by local Police not to fall victim to scams operating in the area.

Police say they have seen a number of incidents across Somerset where elderly and vulnerable people have been victim to unscrupulous criminals who target them specifically.

“They prey on the elderly as they are unfortunately more likely to fall for internet or online fraud and are more likely to say ‘yes’ if someone knocks on the door or cold calls them on the phone,” says Police spokeswoman Miriam Brown.

“Over recent months in Somerset we have seen cold-callers selling over-priced cleaning products, rogue traders forcing elderly people to take them to the bank to withdraw large sums for half-completed jobs, distraction burglars coning their way into homes pretending to be from utility companies or collecting magazine subscriptions, online email scams and even scammers calling people to ask for cash pretending to be police officers.”

“These criminals are really clever and creative and it’s not just the elderly, vulnerable and the less ‘tech-savvy’ that are taken in. We are all at risk of online fraud.”

Recognising the signs of a fraud, scam, distraction burglar or rogue trader is half the battle – and Police say there are signs to help you identify a fraud, scam or con and protect yourself. Here are some typical scenarios:

• You receive an email from a stranger saying you have won money. Be warned – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

• HMRC or a “bank” send an email asking you to confirm bank details or send money to sort out a problem. Your bank will already have your details. It’s probably a scam.

• A cold caller knocks on the door saying they need to come in to check something or that there is a problem with the roof/boiler/drains etc. They could be a distraction burglar.

• A cold caller offers goods or services on the doorstep without providing a quote in writing. They might be offering work you don’t need at inflated prices. It’s better to commission work as and when you need it and to get quotes in writing.

• Someone claiming to be from the police calls and asks for bank details or to send cash as there is a problem with your account. Don’t give them anything. We would never ask you for money or bank details.

• Someone claiming to be from Microsoft or another online company calls asking for your login details and password. They want to gain access to your computer or tablet.

Miriam adds: “We understand that this sounds rather alarming but the good news is that there are some very simple but effective things you can do to protect yourself from this type of crime. Firstly – if you aren’t sure, don’t open the door. Just say no and turn them away. Online, if you get an unsolicited email asking for bank details just delete it and don’t reply. The same with phone calls, if someone calls asking for money, bank details or access to your computer just hang up. It might seem rude but by just by saying “no”, you can avoid becoming a victim of crime.”

Chief Superintendent Ian Wylie, District Commander for Somerset, adds: “These criminals purposefully target the elderly and vulnerable. The impact of their crimes isn’t just financial loss, for many it can have a detrimental effect emotionally, mentally and in some cases physically.”

“Most elderly we victims we speak to say they feel embarrassed and ashamed, and they shouldn’t. These criminals are sophisticated and creative with their lies. But there are ways we can work together to stop it from happening in the first place. Prevention is better than cure.”

“Please talk to any elderly or vulnerable people you know. Help them to understand some of the ways of recognising scams and frauds, and the simple steps they can take to minimise the risk of becoming a victim.”