Following Storm Ciara, West Yorkshire Trading Standards is warning householders to be extra vigilant if approached by traders offering to carry out property repairs as a result of storm damage.
Trading Standards is concerned rogue traders could knock on doors offering to carry out property repairs such as damaged roofing or fencing and may try and scam householders by claiming unnecessary repairs need to be carried out or charge exorbitant prices for shoddy and substandard work.
Communities are also warned to look out for elderly and vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours who are often preyed upon by such traders.
Tactics used by rogue doorstep traders may include:-
- Knocking on the door and saying that they have noticed damage to the property or garden.
- Deliberate targeting of elderly, confused or vulnerable consumers.
- Scaring consumers into having the work carried out.
- Advising that work is needed when this is not the case.
- Starting work which has been agreed, then finding further jobs that need urgent attention; this leads to escalating prices. In these situations, consumers often feel they have no choice but to agree to and pay for the extra work.
- Once a job is started on one house on the street the trader often knocks on other doors offering discounted work because they are “in the area”
- Driving customers to the bank to withdraw cash.
- Trying to get into the house under the guise of needing the toilet or wanting to get a drink; once inside, a distraction burglary is likely to take place.
A multi-agency task force at Trading Standards, the West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT), comprising of professionals from Trading Standards, Police and Social Services, investigates doorstep crime and safeguards victims. Supported by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, its remit includes protecting victims of scams, frauds, doorstep crime and other financial abuse involving family members, carers, and people in a position of trust.
Councillor Pauleen Grahame Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said:
“Doorstep crime can affect anyone, however, rogue traders often prey on elderly and vulnerable people and can have a significant detrimental impact on victims over and above their financial losses. Trading Standards relies on information from members of the public to catch these criminals and bring them to justice. If you are concerned that you or a neighbour may be a victim please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said:
“Parts of West Yorkshire have been badly affected by Storm Ciara and many householders and businesses will be trying to get back on their feet and repair the damage wreaked by this storm. To then be exploited by rogue traders is inexcusable and something we are looking to prevent by stressing to people to follow the advice of West Yorkshire Trading Standards.
“I have provided funding and support to the WYFEAT for a number of years as part of my commitment to safeguard vulnerable people and preventing doorstep crime is a huge part of that. Please do not become a victim of rogue traders, never enter into an agreement with traders who turn up looking for work and always seek professional advice. We will always seek to prosecute those exploiting the vulnerable in this horrendous way.”
Linda Davis, Head of the WYFEAT task force said:
“Never deal with traders who turn up unannounced on your doorstep looking to carry out property repair work. Say No. Instead we advise householders to first contact their insurance company and ask their advice on choosing a trader. Obtain several quotes in writing with full trading details, an itemised list of work to be carried out and a timescale to complete before any work is carried out and only use a reputable firm.”
Neighbourhood Watch scheme members from across the Leeds and Wakefield area, are reporting having received recorded telephone messages purporting to be from HMRC, stating there is a warrant out for their arrest for non-payment of tax. Please just hang up, do NOT press 1 or be tempted to ring any number back it requests you to do. This is a SCAM. The HMRC or any other organisation would not contact you in this way.