POLICE are calling on relatives and neighbours of elderly people to help them combat bogus officials.

The appeal comes after conmen claiming to be from the water board struck three times last week.

Last Monday, a man knocked on the door of a bungalow in Vivian Crescent, Chester-le-Street, and told the 85-year-old woman that he needed to turn off her water because of a burst pipe.

The pensioner was suspicious and pulled her Careline emergency cord. The man ran off before getting inside the bungalow.

An 83-year-old man, who is very hard of hearing and partially sighted, allowed two men into his home in Miller Gardens, Pelton Fell, on Wednesday lunchtime.

They persuaded him to run the water in the kitchen and, while he was occupied, they searched the other rooms and stole £50 from his lounge.

Later that day, two men, possibly the same pair, targeted an 80-year-old woman living in a bungalow in West Leigh, Stanley.

One of the men distracted the pensioner while his accomplice discovered her purse, which contained £100 and her bus pass, in a kitchen drawer.

A dark coloured saloon car was seen driving away from the area after this incident. This car may also have been seen in the vicinity of the Pelton Fell burglary.

In response to these incidents beat bobbies, street wardens and community support officers are distributing about 2000 Northumbrian Water leaflets to elderly residents in Chester-le-Street.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Moore said the leaflets would be a reminder of what to do when someone claims to be from a utility company.

He said: "We are concerned that the very people who need to be cautious perhaps do not read local newspapers, or cannot hear clearly the advice given on TV or radio.

"Neighbours and relatives can also play a vital part in making sure elderly residents remember to be wary of men claiming they have come to check the water supply.

"Call Northumbrian Water or the police if you have any doubts."

The police non-emergency number is 0845 6060365 and Northumbrian Water's number is 08457 171100. The Northern Echo last year launched its Doorsteppers campaign to crack down on bogus tradesmen and cold callers.