POLICE are warning homeowners to be vigilant after bogus water board officials stole money from the homes of elderly residents last week.

Three houses, in Reeth, North Yorkshire, Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham and at Walworth Gate, near Darlington, were all targeted by two men on Friday afternoon and evening.

Money was stolen from the houses in Reeth and Middleton-in-Teesdale.

The men, in their early 20s, said they needed access to the water taps in the house to run dye through them.

Sergeant Ed Turner, of Barnard Castle police said: "We think these three crimes are all linked, because we haven't had anything like this for a while and its unusual for three to happen in such a short space of time.

"We would urge people, especially the elderly, to be extra vigilant. Ask for identification, and if you are in suspicious, call the police on 0845- 6060365.

"We are anxious because only one in ten crimes like this get reported, so the same men could have hit more people.

"It seems people don't often know they have been targeted, or sometimes the victim is a bit embarrassed that they have been conned."

One of the men is described as white, tall, with dark hair and a scar on his lip. He was wearing a blue shirt.

The other was wearing a grey coat is described as small, stocky and white.

Cara Hall, from Northumbria Water, said: "It's very rare that somebody from Northumbria Water will want to get into a customer's house without letting them know first.

"You can also call our call centre on 0845-717111000 if you are unsure. Someone there will be able to confirm if the caller is genuine or not.

"But our main message is: if in doubt, keep them out."