Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards is warning residents to be aware of doorstep criminals operating in the county, following a series of reports of elderly people being approached and told that repair work is needed on their homes.
One couple in their 80s were approached by a rogue trader who told them that their gutters needed cleaning, and offered to carry out the work for £40. The job quickly escalated to involve the replacement of broken roof tiles and other unnecessary pieces of work. The couple ended up being charged £1,300 and paid the sum by cheque – which was cashed within 45 minutes, before they had time to raise the alarm.
The practice of targeting older people for home repairs and escalating the amount of work being carried out is typical of rogue traders, who charge excessive prices and rarely provide paperwork that could be used to track them down. The work itself is often unnecessary and is usually carried out to a poor standard, or sometimes not done at all.
Victoria Wilson, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a horrible crime that not only leaves people out of pocket, but for older people, it can leave them quite shaken up.
“Our Trading Standards service have had a few reports recently of doorstep criminals and we’re reminding people to be vigilant and to report any incidents.
“Reputable builders, roofers and gardeners do not usually cold call. People needing work done on their homes should always get three quotes for the work, never pay up front and should not pay by cash. And, if anyone is unsure about the caller they should ask them to make an appointment to come back when a friend or family member can be with them.
“Finally, for anyone buying goods from someone on their doorstep costing more than £42, the law states that they have 14 days to change their minds and ask for money back. This is known as the cooling-off period. People should never give out bank details or PIN and never transfer money out of their bank account if asked to do so for security reasons.”