New doorstep fraudsters warning
INCREASING numbers of doorstep fraudsters and cowboy workmen are trying to rip-off homeowners in Suffolk, consumer watchdogs warned last night .Complaints about unscrupulous door-to-door callers have risen sharply in the last 12 months as the conmen increasingly prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
By Danielle Nuttall
INCREASING numbers of doorstep fraudsters and cowboy workmen are trying to rip-off homeowners in Suffolk, consumer watchdogs warned last night .
Complaints about unscrupulous door-to-door callers have risen sharply in the last 12 months as the conmen increasingly prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
In many cases, people are being tricked into paying extortionate prices for the likes of home security systems – sometimes nearly ten times the normal cost.
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Trading standards officers in Suffolk have now issued a warning to people in the wake of the new figures.
In the 12 months leading up to August, they received 217 calls from people concerned after being targeted by door-to-door callers. In the previous year the figure stood at 138.
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The worst affected area is Ipswich, which accounted for 66 of all complaints received by Trading Standards officers.
Bury St Edmunds also saw a large proportion of the total number of bogus tradesmen enquiries and complaints with 29 being recorded, and towns such as Stowmarket, Felixstowe and Lowestoft are not far behind.
Principle trading standards officer Mike Collins said more than one third of this year's figure related to a new type of fraudster who pressurises homeowners – usually the elderly – into buying home security alarm systems.
He said: "They are basically selling home security alarms which are enormously overpriced – sometimes in the region of between £1,500 and £1,800. We have information from security companies saying they can put in an adequate system for just £200.
"It's an alarming trend because it's specifically preying on vulnerable and older people and made up one third of our complaint level this year."
Mr Collins said that traditionally Trading Standards had received more complaints about people offering to do odd jobs such as garden maintenance or household repairs that were extortionately overpriced.
These types of complaints still accounted for a large proportion of the complaints recorded this year, but Mr Collins added the figure had significantly reduced compared to previous years.
"The typical thing is someone will say they have some gravel and will give it to the person for £30 and when it's laid they say the person misheard and it's £30 per square metre which makes it £900.
"Sometimes they have taken the person down the local bank and made them withdraw the money.
"There is evidence to prove some people who come and carry out doorstep fraud are the same people that do distraction burglaries. They are passing the information between each other.
"These have dropped and we are doing joint work with a number of partners," Mr Collins added.
Trading Standards are advising people to check the identity of any cold caller and to have a look at their ID card.
People are also advised to consider whether they really need any work done and if so, ask the caller to leave information with them to read at leisure before giving a definite answer.
They are advised not to pay or sign for anything on the day the cold call is made.
The East Anglian Daily Times is also running the Safe in Your Home campaign, and has printed advice cards for people to keep at hand for when they are faced by a cold caller. They are available from the EADT's offices at Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Stowmarket and Ipswich, or by sending an A5 SAE to Michelle Dorrell, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN.
Anyone wanting to receive advice from Trading Standards concerning a cold caller should call 01473 584368.