An elaborate scam by a distinctive looking con man has left trusting pensioners feeling vulnerable.

Cleveland Police are hunting the cruel thief after four similar incidents within days.

The shaven-headed suspect, who has a diamond on his front teeth, approaches pensioners claiming to know them and even uses their first name. He makes conversation before asking them to change some notes and making off with cash.

Officers are linking the thefts with victims in the Normanby, Berwick Hills and Linthorpe areas of Middlesbrough.

PC Peter Addison said: "We would like to warn elderly people in the area that this man is friendly, well spoken and has a very smart appearance.

"There is nothing in his demeanour that would arouse their suspicion. Also, he seems to know their first names which helps him convince them he knows them."

The first incident took place last Saturday in Normanby's West Street, when a 72-year-old man and his wife were approached.

He spoke as if he knew the couple and asked if they could changed two £20 notes.

He persuaded them to part with £50 in cash, saying he would change it at a nearby grocers, but he failed to return.

On Tuesday, the con man approached a 74-year-old man in Barden Road, Berwick Hills, at around 11am. Again, the suspect used the victim's first name and started chatting.

He noticed the victim smokes a pipe and offered to take him to purchase tobacco.

When they arrived at a house in Bowfell Road, the con man asked for the money to pay for the tobacco. He went around the back of the house and failed to return with the £10.

In a similar incident, just metres away in the same street, a 75-year-old was conned out of his £50 pension money. Just one hour later, another elderly man is targeted in Ventnor Road, Linthorpe. This time the 79-year-old revealed he had no cash and the suspect disappeared.

He is white, of medium build, with a round, chubby face. He is described as having a shiny shaven head and a distinctive diamond in one of his front teeth.

Anyone with information, or who thinks they have been targeted, should contact PC Addison at Middlesbrough police station on (01642) 303126.