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Sunday, 7 January, 2001, 04:37 GMT
Crackdown on bogus callers
Elderly woman sitting in living room
Elderly women living alone are often targeted
The government is to spend 800,000 to try to protect pensioners from conmen who call at their homes.

Most of the victims of bogus callers are elderly women living alone who are tricked by thieves posing as officials or workmen.

Every year, more than 60,000 elderly people are targeted by conmen.

But many more crimes go unreported, often because the victims do not realise their valuables have been stolen, or are too ashamed to tell people what has happened.

The money is being awarded to the government's Distraction Burglary Taskforce.

Distraction burglary is a particularly nasty crime as its victims are usually the most vulnerable people in our society

Charles Clarke
It will be spent on a number of initiatives, including the publication of advice for potential victims of conmen, and people working with the elderly.

It will also go to fund research on how distraction burglary is being tackled and recorded.

Some will be spent on the development and testing of new gadgets aimed at reducing the risk of becoming a victim.

These will include a voice reminder system to advise people approaching their front door to remember to put on the door chain and ask for identification.

To reduce fear, the messages could be recorded in a familiar voice such as that of a grandchild or friend.

'Sharing successes'

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke said: "We know that thousands of offences of this nature are recorded but many more go unreported.

"Distraction burglary is a particularly nasty crime as its victims are usually the most vulnerable people in our society, and more often than not they are older people living alone.

"Early indications from research tell us that there is valuable work already being done to tackle this crime, such as local authorities using existing community alarm systems.

"The job of the taskforce is to ensure that these successes can be shared."

The extra money is on top of an award of 200,000 for setting up the taskforce, and 270,000 gained in sponsorship, from organisations such as British Gas, Water UK and the Electricity Association.

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