Scamwatch: door-to-door sales

Men who come selling goods may be burglars in disguise.

burglar breaking into a house...

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, how gangs of men are scoping out potential burglary victims by pretending to be selling cleaning products.

How does it work?

Police forces across the country have issued alerts after recording a wave of crimes involving gangs of men who claim to be selling cleaning products, but are actually on the lookout for properties to burgle at a later date.

Many of the supposed door-to-door sales men claim to be reformed convicts, while others tell householders they are deaf and dumb in a bid to win their trust.

They gain entry to people's houses using this front, all while secretly trying to find out how much cash is likely to be in the house, whether there are lots of valuables and what security measures, such as burglar alarms, there are in place.

Other members of their gang then return a few days or weeks later to burgle the property, using the information collected by their accomplices.

How can I avoid being caught out?

Setting up burglaries is just one of the ways door-to-door tradesmen can prove a threat.

Some so-called hawkers also force their way inside properties, despite being told to go away. Others intimidate their clients into paying inflated prices for their goods.

That's why the police are urging people to use door chains to keep unwanted callers out, to ignore calls from anyone who seems suspicious and to refuse to be intimidated into paying over the odds.

"Do not be persuaded to part with money for products you don't need or for products of poor quality," a spokesperson for Aberystwyth Police Station said.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

There is no shame in being taken in by fraudsters, many of whom are very convincing. But if you have been caught out - acting quickly can make all the difference.

The first step if you have suspicions about a door-to-door trader is to contact the police by calling the non-emergency line: 101.

If you have been burgled, however, you should call the emergency number 999 immediately.