A new multi-agency task force, the West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT), comprising of professionals from Trading Standards, Police and Social Services, has been set up to investigate doorstep crime and safeguards victims. It has recently secured prison sentences against prolific rogue traders operating in West Yorkshire.
Robert Morrison & Paul Towers were each sentenced to 4 years and 3 months imprisonment after their resin drive business deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable residents. Andrew Pollard, a rogue roofer, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment for carrying out unnecessary work which was of poor quality.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards is reminding householders to stay extra vigilant about rogue traders arriving on their doorstep offering services. There has been a recent increase in complaints with the top three doorstep crime complaint categories being: roofing, driveways and gardening/tree cutting.
Communities are warned to look out for elderly and vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours and ensure that they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous traders who carry out shoddy and substandard work or who charge extortionate prices for unnecessary jobs. These crimes occur all year round so everyone must keep alert for these rogues.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service continues to investigate these rogues and are reminding consumers not to deal with traders who call at their homes offering to carry out household repairs.
Tactics used by rogue doorstep traders include:-
- Knocking on the door and saying that they have noticed a loose tile on the roof, have tarmac left over from another job or offer to trim overgrown trees and shrubs.
- 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.
Linda Davis, Head of the WYFEAT task force, said:
“We are striving to catch these rogues and bring them to justice, keeping them out of our communities where they are causing very real damage to residents’ lives. We would advise residents not to do business on the doorstep and, if you are worried about paying for home improvements, to use a vetted trader scheme.”
Councillor Pauline Grahame, of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards, said:
“I urge consumers to be on their guard against doorstep traders following this recent spate of complaints. If you are concerned that you or a neighbour may be a victim, please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said:
“Making sure members of our communities aren’t taken advantage of is in all our interests. We all need to look out for our family members, friends or neighbours who may potentially be exploited by those who deliberately target the vulnerable in a callous way. I was delighted last year and this, to be able to provide joint funding for the WYFEAT task force. Their collective work to identify and pursue offenders, as well as providing support for victims is really important and quite ground breaking in this area of work and across West Yorkshire.”