Cheshire Police are appealing for landlords, along with letting agents and local residents to help crack down on organised crime gangs.
Officers report that there is fresh evidence to show that there has been a significant increase in gangs renting large high value properties in rural areas with a view to housing modern slavery victims.
Intelligence suggests that in some cases, gangs used the properties as illegal call centres, where fraudsters target vulnerable people and attempt to defraud them out of money.
Detective Sergeant Jon Ryder, from Macclesfield Local Policing Unit, commented: “Organised crime gangs are continually evolving the way in which they operate and are always looking for new ways of evading justice.
“In recent months we have received intelligence to suggest that gangs have been letting out properties in order to house modern slavery victims and operate illegal call centres.”
The detective says that gangs tend to rent larger homes in mainly rural and concealed areas in an attempt to operate without being noticed.
He added: “To help combat this, we are asking all Cheshire residents to be vigilant and keep any eye out for any suspicious activity in their communities, particularly rural areas.
“We are also asking landlords and letting agents to ensure that they conduct regular inspections on properties they are renting out and report any suspicious activity. If a tenant won’t let them view the property, there is probably a reason for that – and the reason may regard criminal activity.
“I urge anyone who suspects that a property is being used by an organised crime gang to contact us on 101. We will act on the information that we receive.
“Alternatively, residents can report information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit the Crimestoppers website at www.crimestoppers.co.uk.”