HALTON residents are being warned that criminals posing as water board officials could try and sneak into homes in the coming weeks.

Water firm United Utilities is urging people to be on the lookout for bogus callers and opportunist burglars who tend to target the elderly.

A United Utilities spokesman said: “Offenders call using distraction and say they are from the water board, asking you to turn off the water and then steal from your property.

"It’s a despicable crime against elderly people. We appeal to people to look out for elderly neighbours and report any suspicious callers to police.

"All our staff, contractors and partners carry an identity card bearing their name, photograph, and a contact landline telephone number.”

The warning comes as the nights become brighter and people knock on doors late into the evening.

Con men posing as water board officials struck at several homes during early June last year.

Householders had property and cash stolen before they realised and raised the alarm.

A United Utilities spokesman added: "These are unscrupulous con men who are taking advantage of people's trusting nature. We very rarely call without an appointment. Always ask for an identity card before letting anyone into your home.

"Our message is very simple. Check the callers are who they say they are and if in doubt keep them out.

"It doesn't matter whether they are wearing a United Utilities uniform or if there is one of our vans in the street. Always ask for identification."

Customers can register with United Utilities’ extracare scheme and set their own unique password which only genuine water company employees will know. To register call 0845 746 1100 or 0808 143 1195 or visit unitedutilities.com/extracare.

You can check if workers are legitimate by calling 0845 746 2200.

People with information about suspicious activity can call Cheshire police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.