POLICE are targeting rogue traders who con vulnerable victims into paying extortionate amounts of money for substandard home improvements or work that has not been done.

Avon and Somerset officers last week executed three warrants, made five arrests, detained three people for interview by Trading Standards, stopped more than 300 vehicles and took 38 off the road.

They also visited banks and post offices to warn cashiers about what to do if customers tried to make a sudden large withdrawal they suspected could be to pay a con artist and gave advice to carers in case they discovered people doing building work during home visits.

Supt Geoff Wessell said criminals often targeted elderly people, leaving them scared in their own home, distrusting strangers and often suffering ill health because of the experience.

He said: “Rogue trading and distraction burglary are a priority for us. We all need to know what to look out for to protect ourselves and to look out for relatives and friends, neighbours and the people we visit in the community.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “To prey on people and abuse someone’s trust when they look for help is completely despicable. Rogue traders carry out the ultimate act of betrayal and have a devastating impact.

“Lulling people into a false sense of security before exploiting them is something that will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset.

“If you’re not sure who’s at your door, you don’t have to open it. Genuine callers will make an appointment or will happily show you their identification on request.”

Stuart Brown, chairman of the Trading Standards Partnership South West Doorstep Crime Panel, said: “Tackling doorstep crime is our number one priority for 2014.

“We will extend every effort to catch those rogue traders who bring misery to the doorstep of elderly and vulnerable residents trying to enjoy their retirement in peace.”