HOW TO DRIVE THE CON MERCHANTS AWAY / RESIDENT THWARTS BOGUS TRADING STANDARDS OFFICER / MONEY LAUNDERER MUST TAKE PART IN ‘THINKING SKILLS PROGRAMME’
HOW TO DRIVE THE CON MERCHANTS AWAY
Croydon council’s trading standards team are offering the following advice to people after two more roofing scams in the borough:
• Do not deal with cold callers.
• Always get quotes from at least three builders.
• Never deal with a trader who does not give you paperwork.
• Check that the estimate shows who you are trading with, and that it includes a full name, address and phone number – landline, mobile or both.
• Is the address a proper one? Run it through a map search to check that it exists. An internet search might reveal if the address is genuinely that of the company.
• Do you really want the work done now? Are you being pressured or talked into having it done?
• Always, without fail, pay by bank transfer, as this is traceable; cash is not. Do not agree to pay in cash to avoid VAT. Does the company not pay VAT?
The advice comes after two new cases:
In the first instance, a 90-year-old woman was told by the caller that there was a problem with the roof of her Selsdon home. Talking his way inside, he convinced the woman to show him her bedroom and then, distracting her, sprayed water onto the wall.
He told her that the roof was leaking and, saying it would cost £4,000 to repair, asked her to go to the bank to withdraw the sum in cash.
The bank cashier’s suspicions were aroused and, when told what the money was for, alerted trading standards officers.
The TSOs, with police, went immediately to the victim’s home but the scammer, who had said he would be waiting, was not present. It is thought he may have followed the woman to the bank and, when she failed to leave the branch with the money, left.
The second case saw another elderly woman cold-called and told that her home’s guttering needed replacing. The woman said she would think about it, and, later that night, heard a loud noise outside the house. The following morning she found pieces of her guttering broken and lying on the ground.
The rogue trader returned later that day and quoted a repair bill of £1,500. The victim paid £1,000, promising the balance on completion. However, she was then told that there were further problems and a special machine was needed to lift the roof so that the repairs could be effected without the need to remove the roof tiles. Hire of the machine would cost a further £2,500.
Her suspicions aroused, she said that she could not afford that sum, at which point the conman became aggressive, arguing for an hour until saying that he needed another £200 to complete the work already started.
The victim faced more aggressive bullying until she agreed to hand over £100. The following day, he demanded a further £100, which the woman gave him, telling him to go and to not return.
Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, Cllr Mark Watson said: “While, in the first case, the quick-wittedness of the bank cashier and our trading standards team averted what would have been a costly scam, the second victim wasn’t so lucky and lost more than £1,000.
“Once again, the council and the police can only advise people to never – but never – let a cold caller into their house, and to never give them money to carry out work that they say is necessary.
“Instead, make a note of what they’re saying and ask a relative or friend to assess the situation. “Alternatively, have a reputable, trusted trader have a look and offer an estimate – and then have two more also quote for any required work.”
More information about scams can be found by visiting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service at www.citizensadvice.org.uk and typing “doorstep crime” into the search field.
Reputable traders – vetted and approved by independent assessors – can be found via websites such as www.trustmark.org.uk or http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk (Source: Croydon council press release)
RESIDENT THWARTS BOGUS TRADING STANDARDS OFFICER
A conman claiming to be a council official is known to be operating in the borough of Croydon – and claiming to be from Bromley council!.
He is trying to convince residents to part with thousands of pounds for what he claims are essential drain-clearance works.
The latest example of the scam, being investigated by Croydon’s trading standards department, was reported by a Thornton Heath resident who was sufficiently wary not to hand over the asked-for cash.
The attempted scam began when the resident was door-knocked and told that the caller had links with Bromley’s trading standards team. The caller said that there was a blockage in a sewage pipe that required attention. He told the resident that the work would cost him nothing, and that he should expect a phone call to arrange a time for the work to be done.
A week later he received the phone call and was told that it would be necessary to inspect the pipe with specialist camera kit. When told that he would have to pay a fully refundable deposit of £4,500 for the hire of the kit, he informed the caller that he had no intention of handing over any money.
Two days later, a man called Gary, claiming to be from a drain-cleaning contractor, called to say that the work needed doing, and quoted a fee of £450. When the householder refused, Gary said that, on reflection, he could do the job for £200, but was told that the resident wanted a letter from Croydon council outlining the problems.
In a later phone call, Gary told the resident that payment was due for the work that had been carried out. When the resident pointed out that no work had been done, he was given a telephone number, supposedly of the chief officer of Bromley council.
When the resident called the number, he spoke to a man called Rob McClusky, who said that he was aware of the scam, and that the resident should go along with the transfer of money as officers would be waiting outside to catch the crooks red-handed. The householder said that he could not get the money. The phone calls have continued but the householder is ignoring them.
Residents should be aware that council officers never ask for money, and any resident who has previously been ripped off in their home or has recently had building repairs carried out, needs to be particularly cautious.
Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice Cllr Mark Watson said: “It’s known that these criminals share information with each other; for that reason, I’d urge people to be particularly vigilant if they’ve previously been victims of doorstep crime or rogue traders.”
Anybody contacted by somebody claiming to be a council officer – in person, by telephone or letter – can check their identity by calling the local authority concerned; the number of Croydon council’s call centre is 020 8726 6000.
Residents should not use any number suggested by the caller; they should call only the council’s listed number to confirm an officer’s details.
Reputable traders – vetted and approved by independent assessors – can be found via websites such as www.trustmark.org.uk or http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk . (Source: Croydon council press release)
MONEY LAUNDERER MUST TAKE PART IN ‘THINKING SKILLS PROGRAMME’
A money launderer must take part in a ‘Thinking Skills programme’ which encourages better life choices after getting a suspended prison sentence.
The man was convicted of 12 offences of money laundering following a prosecution brought by the Bromley council’s trading standards team.
He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years and is subject to 12 months supervision and must take part in the accredited ‘Thinking Skills Programme’ which encourages better life choices. He was also ordered to pay £3,300 in compensation to the victims.
The investigation was triggered following a call to Bromley Trading Standards rapid response team from a Bickley resident who was concerned that costs of building work to his home were escalating.
The resident had been cold called by a builder and agreed to minor repairs but additional repairs were identified pushing the costs to £27,000.
A subsequent survey found the repairs unnecessary and fraudulent. The investigation unveiled two further victims of the fraudulent building scam, and collectively £132,000 was paid into the man’s account.
On sentencing, the judge the man he needed to grow up and that he was stupid if he did not think he had been involved in a scam when asked to accept such a large sum of money into his account. The judge added that he was not surprised the jury rejected his defence.
Bromley council’s executive member for public protection and safety, Cllr Kate Lymer said: “People like this man make it easy for fraudsters to commit their crimes and if it wasn’t for the likes of him there would be fewer opportunities for these criminals to defraud unsuspecting residents.”
Bromley’s Trading Standards Rapid Response Team can be contacted on 07903 852090. (Source: Bromley council press release)