TRADING standards officers are taking part in a week of activities to raise awareness of the risks posed by dealing with unknown doorstep callers.

Officers receive hundreds of complaints about doorstep callers every year, with reports of shoddy or unnecessary work, false claims and gross overcharging.

In the worst cases, which often involve vulnerable and elderly residents, victims are targeted repeatedly over weeks or months and can even be driven to the bank by offenders to withdraw cash.

Some end up being defrauded of tens of thousands of pounds.

This week, North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards, in partnership with the police, are taking part in activities to raise awareness of the dangers of dealing with cold callers.

Officers are also looking for intelligence about who is out and about in the county carrying out such offending.

Activities will include collecting flyers and leaflets posted through residents’ doors for property repairs and officers will visit businesses that supply materials and printing to offenders to encourage reporting of concerns and suspicious behaviour.

In the past 12 months, the Operation Gauntlet team has successfully prosecuted 18 offenders for conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and fraud offences, resulting in prison sentences totalling more than 53 years.

The cases included an 80-year-old man from the Richmond area who was defrauded of £17,000 for roofing work and driven to the bank by the offenders in a van on three occasions.

County Councillor Andrew Lee, executive member for trading standards, said: “Our trading standards team are committed to working with partners to rid the county of the scourge of doorstep crime.

"We know offenders target the most vulnerable.

"We also know reporting rates for such crimes are too low – we only receive reports from five to ten per cent of the victims of these crimes.

“We rely on members of the public coming into contact with these offenders to tell us and help us to protect vulnerable residents who may be more susceptible to these crimes.

"Our officers are ready to respond and have an excellent track record of bringing offenders to justice and returning money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act to victims.”

Anyone concerned about cold callers can report them on 03454-040506.