Doorstep fraud – conning residents out of their life savings – is rising as lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards have already seen an increase in rogue traders targeting older adults using tactics such as befriending, religious affiliation, pressure and even aggression to extort money.
This month an Epsom resident was cold called by two males who initially offered to power wash his block paving. The initial demand of £500 escalated quickly as he was escorted to the bank to relieve him of an extra £400. This matter is currently being investigated by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards.
Recently, a Redhill resident was targeted by a bogus ‘handyman’ who demanded £4,200 in cash for tidying his garden and removing waste. This rogue trader also escorted the resident to his bank to retrieve the money but fortunately the bank was suspicious of the circumstances and intervened. The garden waste was later found fly tipped.
Denise Turner Stewart, Cabinet Member for Communities at Surrey County Council, said, “Sadly, rogue traders tend to target people at this time of year when the weather is improving and with lockdown restrictions relaxing, this provides more opportunity for the criminals to dupe householders into paying for shoddy or unnecessary work.
“Doorstep fraud is a terrible crime which can have lasting ramifications for a victim and their family. We urge local our communities to be vigilant and to look out for their elderly and vulnerable neighbours, often it is neighbours, relatives and friends who raise the alarm.
“Rogue traders are highly organised, professional offenders who have developed their skills over the years. It is estimated only 5% of scams are reported so we would encourage everyone to not be afraid or embarrassed to report an incident and seek support. The information could also help our Trading Standards Officers prevent future incidents.”
Trading Standards advice to avoid getting tricked out of your money is:
• Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to shut the door.
• Take your time, don’t be rushed or confused by technical jargon.
• Know who you’re dealing with, if you need help talk to someone you know or get in touch with your local council.
• Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know.
• Never engage with someone or allow them access to your home unless you can verify their authenticity and who they are.
A Stop Cold Calling pack, including no cold calling stickers, has been designed to notify traders that cold callers are not welcome. Legitimate traders will abide by your wishes. You can request a pack from firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can report incidents of cold calling to Trading Standards via the Citizens’ Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. If there is a doorstep crime in progress or you feel threatened, please call 999.