POLICE are warning residents to beware of cold callers - otherwise known as Nottingham Knockers - following several reports on Saturday (January 5) in different parts of Calne and Chippenham.

Cold callers are doorstep callers who offer small household products for sale.

They will often say that they are on a rehabilitation course arranged by probation services or other organisations trying to find people work, but this is not the case and often they are known criminals. They may also hand over a card saying they are deaf, or have learning disabilities.

A bag of household products is supplied by someone who employs them (originally a man from Nottingham – hence the name), but now they are recruited from anywhere.

The men, or in some cases women, are supplied with a full bag of household products and charged a minimal sum for the contents – around £35 - and they can keep whatever they make, above this amount.

Usually they are deposited in an area from a transit van and given a list of streets to work. An hour or so later they are picked up and dropped off in another location. They often work from 9am to 9pm.

Police warn that there have been cases of elderly residents handing over large sums as the cold callers can be very persistent and confrontational, and when money is handed over, the caller examines the condition and how long it took the person to get it. If it is crumpled, they accept it and move on. If it is crisp flat and new, they may engage the person in more conversation, to obtain details about them and note the address to hand to their employer.

The addresses of elderly or vulnerable people are then sold on to criminal gangs. If there is a later break-in, the employer expects a further cut of the proceeds.

PCSO Mark Cook of the Calne Community Police team said: “We would like to urge people to be vigilant. You should never feel pressured into buying something, whether it is goods or a service, and should contact police if you feel threatened or intimidated. Please warn your neighbours, particularly elderly or vulnerable neighbours, not to open the door to strangers or buy or sell on the doorstep. Some doorstep callers may offer poor quality goods at inflated prices and if a caller is not genuine, they may be gathering information for future crime. If cold callers don’t get any sales in your area, they are less likely to return.”