Trading Standards Officers and the Police hear from hundreds of Londoners who are victims of criminals calling at their homes. Some have lost their life savings, or are left frightened to live in their own homes after they have fallen prey to the worst type of callers – rogue builders who damage your home and then charge a fortune to ‘repair’ it; distraction burglars who gain entry to your home to steal valuables or plan a burglary. Many hundreds more will be too embarrassed to report the crime.
Often those caught out are those living alone, the elderly and the otherwise vulnerable. Anyone can play their part in preventing this type of crime and in helping your neighbour to avoid becoming a victim.
Some doorstep crime is mild – making misrepresentations to sell overpriced goods on the doorstep, for instance. At the other extreme, it is life changing and LTS calls on Londoners to help protect their neighbours.
How can you help protect your neighbours?
It is best to be proactive:
- Encourage them to use doorstep security – chains or intercoms and ‘no uninvited traders’ notices.
- Talk to them about the nature of some callers and ensure they know they can call you if there is a problem.
- Report suspicious activity – postcards or leaflets offering building services posted through your letterbox; individuals knocking at houses, particularly those in slight disrepair (a favourite target for rogue builders) – to Trading Standards immediately.
If this doesn’t seem to have worked, see if your neighbour needs assistance:
- If they seem to be in an uncomfortable conversation with someone at their front door, find a way of catching their attention, as it may make it easier for them to end the conversation or the caller may leave rather than have witnesses.
- If you see men working on a vulnerable resident’s house, driveway or garden, go and chat with your neighbour to make sure they are OK and that the workers have been engaged safely. Danger signs are:
- If they have been employed after cold-calling or dropping a card through the door.
- If they have asked for cash payment up-front or have insisted on taking the neighbour to the bank to get cash out.
- If they were initially engaged for a small job, but then mentioned other work that ‘needs doing urgently’.
- If they have given no business details that can be checked. (If they have given a limited company name, check that the company exists and is not recently incorporated – searching ‘company information’ will get you to the right page on the Companies House website).
- Report any concerns immediately to Trading Standards and also, if the criminal activity is ongoing, to the Police.
- If you can SAFELY record details of vehicles, or take photographs / video of the men, please do so – it could be vital evidence – but do not consider confronting them unless you are sure you will be safe.
LTS has published further information on-line here: Doorstep Crime – London Trading Standards; and a booklet, ‘Don’t Deal at the Door’ (with the ‘no uninvited traders’ notice on the back), which is available from your local Trading Standards team (details will be found on the council website).