General, Trading Standards

Rapid action team saves victims £1.25 million

Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety. Download this photo here.

A crack team of consumer champions has stopped conmen ripping off unsuspecting victims to the tune of £1.25 million since it was formed.

In the last financial year alone, Surrey County Council Trading Standard’s rapid action team (RAT) prevented victims handing over almost £120,000 to rogue traders.

The team is on standby to provide a fast response to anyone who suspects they are being conned by doorstep callers.

Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Whether you’re worried about a dodgy roofer or a crooked salesman, once the team receives a call on the rapid action team hotline they can respond quickly, often catching the conmen in the act before any money is handed over.

“They will intervene on your behalf and deal with the traders or conmen to try and stopped people being ripped off. It’s not unusual for these criminals to target vulnerable people who they will pressurise into paying for work.

“The price quoted is usually very low but once the work is underway the cost will dramatically increase, often by several thousand pounds. It’s usually done to a very poor standard. Our advice is never to deal with doorstep traders. If you suspect something is wrong, phone the rapid action team.”

Since the team was formed in 2003, it has worked closely with Surrey Police by sharing intelligence and expertise which has led to joint prosecutions in the courts.

Surrey County Council Leader David Hodge praised the rapid action team’s good work during a speech at today’s annual meeting of the county council

The rapid action team can be contacted on 08454 04 05 06.

Case study

Harold Trace, 86, and his wife Joyce, 82, were scammed out of £3,000 by conmen who used the death of the couple’s daughter to gain their trust.

The doorstep callers targeted the couple from Ashford in September last year and charged £1,500 to remove ivy roots that they claimed were damaging a wall.

They then charged a further £1,500 to fix a further ‘root probem’ and demanded payment in cash.

Mr and Mrs Trace contacted the rapid action team and police but unfortunately in this case the conmen vanished and could not be traced. They used a fake phone number and address.

Visit www.youtube.com/surreynews to watch an interview with Mr and Mrs Trace.

ENDS

Media requiring more information can contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Oxley at james.oxley@surrey.gov.uk.

Notes to editors

Surrey County Council Trading Standards is offering free no cold calling doorstep stickers. If callers ignore the sticker they may be liable to prosecution. Stickers can be picked up for free at local council offices, libraries and police stations. They can also be downloaded by visiting www.surreycc.gov.uk and searching for ‘doorstep sticker’.

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