AN ELABORATE scam by a distinctive looking conman has left pensioners feeling vulnerable.

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

The shaven-headed suspect, who has a diamond in 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 from 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 change two £20 notes.

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

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

He noticed the victim smoked a pipe and offered to take him to buy tobacco.

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

In a similar incident, only metres away in the same street, a 75-year-old was conned out of his £50 pension money.

Only an hour later, another elderly man was targeted in Ventnor Road, Linthorpe. This time, the 79-year-old said he had no money and the conman disappeared.

The suspect is white, of medium build with a round, chubby face.

He was bald and had a diamond in one of his front teeth.

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