It pays to be suspicious when dealing with traders calling at your door, or at other homes in the street.
Trading Standards get hundreds of complaints every year about people who fall victim to doorstep criminals in their own homes. Often, by the time we hear about it, the damage is done. The loss of their money may not be a victim’s only problem: often the condition of their home has been made worse and they need to find further money to put it right; they will also be added to a ‘Suckers list’ – their name and address will be passed round as suitable targets for future scams; the experience may have left them scarred.
LTS asks that residents report any signs of suspicious activity to their local Trading Standards Team as soon as possible. Signs may include:
- People knocking at your door, or others in the street, offering building or other home improvement services. Good builders do not need to tout for business!
- Leaflets / postcards offering similar services being dropped through your letter box – particularly if the company mentioned does not exist or is recently incorporated (Companies House records are public – just search ‘company information’) or the address is not local.
- Anyone calling to sell you something. Door-to-door salesmen used to be common in the pre-internet days, when ‘spreading the word’ was harder. Now anyone trying to sell you anything on your doorstep should not be entertained as it is likely to be someone using high pressure sales techniques to sell overpriced, low-quality goods.
You may also see signs that raise suspicions that it would be good to check out.
- Unexpected building works at a vulnerable neighbour’s home. If you see builders, particularly at the ‘past their best’ homes of vulnerable residents – exactly the types of residences that rogues target – and it strikes you as odd, it probably is. A friendly word with the resident (not the traders!) to find out how they were employed might save their life savings. Tradesmen calling at the house and telling the resident something needed doing, being ready to start straight away, or taking a large amount of money up-front, are sure signs that they are rogues and it is imperative to report them.
- If the tradesmen appear to be working unsafely or carelessly – damaging the property or grounds as they work – they may not be responsible businesses. Asking questions of the resident may help clarify.
If you have any suspicions about activity in your neighbourhood, please report them immediately to your local Trading Standards team (details will be found on the council website). You may be protecting vulnerable neighbours, even if you have not been targetted.
LTS has published further information on-line here: Doorstep Crime – London Trading Standards; and a booklet, ‘Don’t Deal at the Door’ (with a ‘no uninvited traders’ notice on the back), which is available from your local Trading Standards team (details will be found on the council website).