TRADING STANDARDS CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO SHOPPERS: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”
Trading standards officers in Croydon have given a traditional Christmas message to shoppers: don’t hand over cash at mock auctions thinking you are buying high-end goods.
In fact, it would be advisable for them to stay away from all such sales where the adage “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” is especially pertinent, they add.
The run-up to Christmas traditionally sees conmen taking out short-term leases on high-street shop units, or hiring halls, clubs or pubs for just a few hours, to stage one-day sales and mock auctions that invariably see bargain-hunting shoppers ripped off as they believe they are buying quality products, only to find that they have been sold cheap, sometimes dangerous, imitations.
Typically, such sales are to be found selling electrical goods – such as tablet computers, games consoles and ebook readers – or what appear, at a casual glance, to be high-end perfumes and cosmetics but, on closer inspection, turn out to be shoddy, low-quality wares.
Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice Cllr Mark Watson said that shoppers had a duty to themselves not to be taken in by the outlandish promises made by rogue traders who set up scam sales.
“In addition to the old and the vulnerable, these conmen – because that is what they are – prey on the inexperience of younger shoppers who are probably not so aware of the scam being played out.
“Basically, their customers are usually those who can least afford to lose the money they’re spending in good faith.
“What all consumers must bear in mind, however, is that they need to protect themselves in these hard economic times and be aware that, at these sort of events, the box they’re leaving with might not contain what they expect.
“The expectation that the council or the police will be able to get their money back once they willingly throw it at these rogues to grab a bargain is not a reality. “Once it goes, it’ll probably never be seen again.”
The trading standards team warns shoppers to be aware of the following signs that indicate all is not as it should be.
• Sales might be conducted behind closed doors, often with bouncers to prevent people leaving.
• Only cash will be accepted for payment, and no receipts will be issued.
• The quality – or quantity – of goods on offer bears no relation to the low selling price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• No refunds will be given, and there will be no observance of consumers’ rights.
• There will be no clear details of the business or individuals running the sale.
(Source: Croydon council press release)
A pensioner was saved from handing over £2,500 to a heartless rogue by the combined forces of the council’s trading standards team, local bank staff and the police.
The scam was prevented last week when a 76-year-old Addiscombe resident attempted to withdraw the sum from his account at his local branch of NatWest, said a council spokesman.
“Long-standing liaison work between trading standards officers (TSOs) and staff of borough banks and building societies prompted the cashier to be suspicious of the unusual request for such a large sum from the account of a possibly vulnerable customer.
“TSOs and police were called to the branch to advise the resident. “They learned that a caller had knocked on the man’s door to tell him that water pipes serving his property were broken and in urgent need of repair.
“He claimed that a compressor would be needed to carry out the work, and that he would need £2,500 from the resident for the hire charge. If the equipment was not hired, the water would have to be cut off and not reconnected for a number of days.
“He also falsely claimed to have an unspecified connection with Croydon council.
“On attempting to withdraw the requested cash, the resident was persuaded that the man’s claims were false, and that handing over the money would see him robbed of part of his life savings.
“It transpired that the resident was having legitimate gas main work carried out at his property at the time, and it is felt that the criminal, who has no links to the gas company, used this genuine work as an opportunity to target the resident and attempt the fraud.”
The spokesman added that 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)