USEFUL advice on protecting yourself against fraud and burglary was given to residents as part of a new community initiative.

Dozens of guests attended the first in a series of monthly meetings at Earley Resources Centre following a rise in crime in recent months.

Elderly residents in particular were warned about the dangers of scammers and rogue traders, as representatives from Thames Valley Police and Trading Standards handed out leaflets to take away.

Jackie Rance, vice-chair of Earley Neighbourhood Action Group, welcomed the new initiative after she was a victim of theft more than a year ago.

She said: "I had my car broken into, but thankfully nothing valuable was taken. It happens to all kinds of people, as thieves are getting more sophisticated.

"The meeting was an eye-opening experience for many people. It is all common sense, but it is useful to be able to remind people what to look out for.

"These people often have very convincing stories, but can start demanding cash from frightened and vulnerable people."

A recent spate of thefts in Woodley and Earley saw a group of thieves travel around in an Audi, before stealing valuable jewellery.

An elderly man was distracted by a person claiming to work for the water company in February, which resulted in the offender stealing his bankcard and withdrawing money.

Jackie added: "The advice from Trading Standards was to avoid rogue traders and only answer the door to reputable traders who you have made contact with beforehand.

"The whole idea of having these meetings is to give people the chance to safeguard themselves against crime. It is impossible to prevent crime, but if people know what to look for then they are less likely to be caught out.

"We want the community to understand what they can do and I hope to see even more people at next month's meeting."

The next meeting will be held at The Oakwood Centre on May 12 and everyone is welcome to attend.

Call police on 101 if you spot anything suspicious.