If you are not sure, don’t open the door - that’s the advice from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) which is urging elderly residents and people living alone to register a security password with their water and energy company to help thwart distraction burglars.

Signing up for a password is a simple and effective way to avoid becoming a victim of the nine bogus caller crimes that are reported to police each day in England and Wales. These criminals often pose as water or energy company officials to trick their way into people’s homes before stealing money or valuables.

About a fifth of the 3,193 crimes reported in 2014/15 involved callers claiming to be from a water company, or a ‘water board’ which no longer exists. But that only tells part of the story with an estimated 90 per cent of distraction burglaries going unreported because many vulnerable victims – particularly elderly people - feel too embarrassed or scared to report the crime.

Janine Shackleton, policy manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Distraction burglars callously exploit vulnerable people and have no regard for the distress their actions cause their victims.

“We would urge anyone with family, friends or neighbours who are elderly or living on their own to encourage them to register a password with their water and energy company. It’s simple to set up but will give you peace of mind.”

Every water company offers a password protection service and all a customer needs to do is contact them and register the password they would like them to use when they visit.

Once registered a customer should always ask any doorstep caller claiming to be from their utility company to quote their personal password and provide ID before opening the door. If the caller is unable to do so the customer should call 999.

Customers can find the contact details for their water company, along with details of how to register a password and a list of our top tips at www.ccwater.org.uk/boguscallers/

Energy customers should contact their gas and electricity supplier for details of their password scheme.