PEOPLE from across Staffordshire are being urged to be vigilant following reports of doorstep criminals operating in the county.
The warning from Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service follows a number of reports where elderly residents have been approached and told they need work carried out on their property.
In one case, a couple in their eighties, were approached by a man as they sat in their conservatory. Having been told that they needed their guttering cleaned, for the sum of £40, the job soon escalated to replacement of broken roof tiles, fitting a dry ridge system, replacing the seals and a special coating being needed on the conservatory.
The couple ended up paying £1,300 by cheque, with the cheque being cashed within 45 minutes of it having been received and before the couple had time to raise the alarm.
Rogue traders typically target older people for home repairs; mainly roofing and guttering work. They start off by saying there is some work needing to be done to the house (the gutters need cleaning for example), saying if the work is not done, it will be a very big job to put right. The prices charged are excessive and they rarely provide paperwork so they can't be traced once they've left people’s homes. Often the work they suggest doesn’t even need doing and if it is done is done to a poor standard.
Doorstep criminals have also been known to return to the homes of people who have previously had poor work carried out, pretending to be a police or trading standards officer. In this case they continued to demand additional payments despite the involvement of the Police and Trading Standards.
Victoria Wilson, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a horrible crime that not only leaves people out of pocket, but for older people, it can leave them quite shaken up.
“Our Trading Standards service have had a few reports recently of doorstep criminals and we’re reminding people to be vigilant and to report any incidents.
“Reputable builders, roofers and gardeners do not usually cold call. People needing work done on their homes should always get three quotes for the work, never pay up front and should not pay by cash. And, if anyone is unsure about the caller they should ask them to make an appointment to come back when a friend or family member can be with them.
“Finally, for anyone buying goods from someone on their doorstep costing more than £42, the law states that they have 14 days to change their minds and ask for money back. This is known as the cooling off period. People should never give out bank details or PIN and never transfer money out of their bank account if asked to do so for security reasons.”
Trading Standards officers are now warning householders to be aware and never:
• Agree for work on their house or garden by someone who knocks at their door uninvited
• Give money to or sign any forms for people who turn up on their doorstep
• Open the door to strangers or allow uninvited callers into their home
• Let somebody take them to the bank to take money out
Anyone who feels afraid or threatened by a doorstep caller should call 999. For non-urgent calls they should contact Staffordshire Police on 101.
People can get further advice by calling Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or the county council’s Trading Standards team on 0300 111 8000.