Bogus repair man scares elderly resident into paying for non-existent work

PUBLISHED: 18:41 17 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 06 May 2010

AN ELDERLY man was targeted by a rogue trader who intimidated him into handing over money. The culprit knocked at the door of the 81-year-old victim in Camp Road, St Albans, at around 12.30pm on Tuesday afternoon. He lied about carrying out maintenance w

AN ELDERLY man was targeted by a rogue trader who intimidated him into handing over money.

The culprit knocked at the door of the 81-year-old victim in Camp Road, St Albans, at around 12.30pm on Tuesday afternoon.

He lied about carrying out maintenance work on the property for which he demanded payment, and the scared victim handed over a small amount of money.

Police are now appealing for witnesses and information about the incident and have also sent out a warning for people to be on their guard against rogue traders.

In St Albans there has been a recent rise in the number of incidents in which elderly and vulnerable people have been conned out of thousands of pounds after rogue traders carried out unnecessary work on their homes.

Many of the culprits make a cold call and claim that they have seen a problem with the roof, driveway or other parts of the property and will offer to fix the problem.

Some have even been known to break roof tiles using a catapult before knocking at the property as a way to lure people into repair agreements.

In the last few weeks leaflets have been distributed in the area by paving companies using fake addresses. Trading Standards are advising consumers to make checks on any trader before contacting them, and to consider using a Trustmark approved trader.

Detective Sergeant Bart Haley from the police Operation Manhunt team, which investigates distraction burglaries and rogue trading, said: "We have seen a rise in this type of crime in these areas, and although we are rigorously investigating them with Herts Trading Standards, we are asking people to protect themselves and their neighbours.

"These people are very convincing and can seem legitimate which is why people get caught out. But they will demand cash up front, won't use any paperwork and will create new 'problems' which need fixing to get more money from their victims.

He added: "Be on your guard, don't open your door to cold callers if you are not expecting them. Never agree to any work or part with any cash straight away. If you are in doubt, take information and contact Trading Standards to check their legitimacy."

County Councillor Richard Smith, executive member for community safety, said: "There are legitimate businesses which cold call but because that practice has been hijacked by distraction burglars and other criminals who prey on vulnerable residents, it has become an unwanted menace. Our advice is always to say no to doorstep traders."

New legislation which came into force this month requires a seven-day cancellation notice to be given for most contracts made at the home from both solicited and unsolicited visits. Failure to comply is a criminal offence and the contracts become unenforceable against the consumer. If a consumer wants work to start within the seven days then they must indicate this to the trader in writing.

Anyone with any information about Tuesday's incident should contact the police on 0845 3300 222.

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