Londoners are being asked to keep an eye on the old and vulnerable in their neighbourhoods to build on the connections created during lockdown.
The ‘Do us a favour, look out for your neighbour’ campaign is being launched by London Trading Standards (LTS) following reports of better neighbour engagement and community spirit following the Covid-19 pandemic.
It aims to encourage people to look out for one another to stop scams and doorstep crime from happening.
Lockdown saw a reduction in cold callers at the door, but LTS is now seeing a return to pre-Covid levels of rogue trading.
Trading Standards manager, Trish Burls, said: “Many of us are working from home on a much more regular basis and therefore are more aware of what is going on locally. By working together we can support the elderly and vulnerable, to stop rogue traders in their tracks.”
Defective or unnecessary roofing jobs top the table in London for rogue trading incidents. By 2020 the number of reported incidents had risen to 961, from 495 in 2018.
Many rogue traders advertise on social media platforms to add an air of legitimacy to their business, whilst others may advertise as Limited Companies to improve their perceived credibility.
If a neighbour is having work carried out to their home, such as roofing, gardening or driveway repairs, or there are vans/other vehicles parked outside their property, regularly coming and going – this might be suspicious.
There might be an increase in mail or phone calls, or individuals might be withdrawing more money than usual. If this is the case it’s best to ‘do us a favour, look out for your neighbour’.
Trish Burls said: “We’ve seen issues recently including rogue traders cold calling on householders to tell them that there may be a slipped tile or loose render on their roof.
“What starts off as a small job, such as replacing a roof tile, develops into a job costing in excess of £50,000.”
Earlier this year two men pleaded guilty to fraud charges after charging a 74-year-old woman £18,640 for gardening work, which an expert estimated to be worth no more than £1,600.
The fraud was recognised after the victims bank alerted Bromley Trading Standards. By this time the pair had returned to their victim 12 times, demanding payment for work.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them and were sentenced at Croydon Crown Court. The full case can be read here (insert hyperlink). https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/2747/trading_standards_warning_following_prosecution
Other examples include victims being cold called to have pressure washing carried out with the risk of the work being badly done, then leaving the individual with no redress.
Fraudsters may charge an inflated price to do the work, with or without the permission of the householder, or do test patches on the driveway, roof or patio,
Scammers may turn up at people’s homes, claiming to be couriers or not giving paperwork. Read one victim’s story below.
London Trading Standards (LTS) and Trading Standards South East (TSSE) have been working on an initiative to install video cameras, GuardCams and video door panels to support vulnerable people.
Those supported were either being targeted and victimised by rogue traders, bogus callers and distraction burglaries or considered susceptible to this crime type.
National Trading Standards has thanked LTS: “This data shows that intervention of this type both deters criminals and increases the confidence of the residents.”
Concerns can be shared by contacting LTS via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service reporting line on 0808 223 1133.
Take Five is a national campaign offering straight forward, impartial advice that helps prevent email, phone based and online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations.
You can find out more here: Take Five – To Stop Fraud | To Stop Fraud (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk)
A victim’s personal experience of rogue traders:
My husband and I obtained what we thought was a reputable trader from a well-known site. The trader arrived and we asked for our roof to be cleaned of moss and for a few tiles to be replaced.
The traders then immediately went onto the roof and found more and more work that they stated needed doing. The traders were intimidating, and they coerced and harassed us into paying out over £60,000 to them. They did not give us time to think about what was going on and kept on saying that the roof would fall in if we did not get it fixed.
Our health deteriorated whilst this was ongoing and caused a lot of tension between us. The whole event frightened us and then made us feel embarrassed by what we had done (in paying out £60,000).
We wanted to thank you very much for all your help and advice to us through a traumatic time we went through after being victims of fraud.
We found you were very empathetic, professional and friendly and have helped us to move on from this bad experience.
You supplied us with a reputable trader who has now completed the work that was needed, and this has now given us peace of mind.
LTS is highlighting the online consumer crime reporting tool – a confidential, no reply service to raise concerns over inappropriate practices relating to all schemes. Report consumer crime – London Trading Standards