Unwanted callers given cold shoulder

SUFFOLK'S battle to banish conmen preying on the vulnerable in their homes is being stepped up.

Colin Adwent

SUFFOLK'S battle to banish conmen preying on the vulnerable in their homes is being stepped up.

No Cold Calling Zones are to be launched in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Hopton, near Diss.

They are the latest weapons in the fight against unscrupulous traders and criminals who badger the elderly and people who can be easily duped.

The authorities say doorstep crimes are notoriously under reported. Initially five zones will be set up to help tackle the problem which can have a deep impact on the targets.

The strategy, which is backed by police, trading standards officers and councillors, has been praised by a leading charity for the elderly.

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Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said: “It is a great idea. It's a real issue that sadly people select those who they perceive to be vulnerable. These people are always changing their approach to try something new and catch people out.

“One of the biggest issues is the loss of cash or goods, but the biggest thing is the loss of confidence. If people lose confidence in living on their own that's the worst thing than can happen.”

Graham Crisp, acting assistant county trading standards officer, said where No Cold Calling Zones are in place elsewhere they have proved a great success. In Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire burglary rates fell by 11% and 23% respectively.

Mr Crisp said: “Where zones have been nominated we have conducted surveys and have had a very positive response in all five areas.

“We are setting up zones because we wish to ensure Suffolk residents are informed and able to say no on their doorstep to traders, who may well be rogue or using the call as a technique for distraction burglary.

Mr Crisp added if the initiative is successful it will be rolled out in other areas of the county.

Rogue traders and crooks can have a big effect on the vulnerable.

Chief Inspector Paul Sharp, Suffolk police's head of community safety, said: “It can clearly have a huge impact on the victim, especially if they are elderly. It's a really horrendous crime and can have huge implications”

To illustrate the problem police and council officials in Ipswich yesterday warned that tricksters are on the prowl in the town.

On Thursday between 11.05am and 11.20am, a man went to the home of a 79-year-old in Beech Grove in the Nacton Road area and told him he was there to fix the roof. However, the pensioner refused to let the conman in the house.

Meanwhile, people claiming to work for the borough council have knocked on at least one door in the Chantry area asking for money.

A council spokesman said: “Everyone working for or representing the Borough Council will have authentic ID and will not ask anyone for cash. We urge people to be on their guard.”

Any residents who want their area considered for a No Cold Calling Zone, should telephone trading standards officers on 01473 264859.

Locations for the first five zones

N Maryon Road and Grasmere Close, Ipswich

N Humber Doucy Lane, Ipswich

N Maybush Lane and Cranmer Cliff Gardens, Felixstowe

N Rembrandt Way, Bury St Edmunds

N Pinetree Court, Holme Close, Lewis Close and Shickle Place, Hopton

Advice for homeowners

N Before you answer the door ensure your back door and windows are locked

N Check who is calling by looking through your door's spy hole or a window.

N If you have a door chain or bar, make sure that you use it and keep it on.

N Ask your caller to show you an identification card

N It should include their name, a photograph and the name and number of the company they represent.

N Check that the photograph matches that of the caller.

N Close and lock the door and check the details to check if the company is genuine.

N Genuine callers will not mind waiting while you check it and confirm their identity.

N Never agree to have work done by someone who is passing and never pay for any work before it is done.

N Remember to note down the description of any unsolicited caller and their vehicle if possible.

N If in doubt, keep them out and call 999