Avon and Somerset Police have spent the week targeting criminals and making sure people know how to stay safe from doorstep crooks as part of national Rogue Trader Week.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "Rogue traders carry out the ultimate act of betrayal. Too often I have heard of incidences where these despicable individuals prey on people and abuse their trust. The expoitation of people through 'cold-calling' and distraction burglaries will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset.
"Remember, it is your doorstep, please do not let these people bully their way into your home. if you're not sure who's at your door you don't have to open it, genuine callers will make an appointment to come back at a later date or will be happy to wait while you check they are who they say they are."
Chief Inspector Sharon Baker, who co-ordinated the operation, said: "Rogue Traders are unscrupulous cold callers who offer to do work and ask for cash up front, carry it out to a poor standard or not at all, do work unnecessarily, or overcharge.
"Though thankfully this doesn’t happen often, it does disproportionately affect older people – who are more likely to be at home during the day – and can have a significant impact on their wellbeing as well as their finances. We've been giving information on avoiding these scams directly to senior citizens and asking people to look out for their vulnerable family and friends.
"We teamed up with Trading Standards officers to carry out joint patrols across the area. As well as talking to householders where work was being done, we’ve stopped and checked out tradespeople in their vans, offering them advice on consumer law. Reputable tradespeople support our efforts to target the crooks who give the whole profession a bad name."
During the week officers arrested two men after getting a call from a bank concerned about an elderly customer.
NatWest staff in Wells High Street called police at about midday on Wednesday 10 October. They said an 82-year-old woman had been brought to the branch by a man in a van who wanted cash up front for work on her roof.
Officers attended the bank and the lady’s home and arrested two men aged 24 and 46 on suspicion of fraud by false representation. Both were later released on police bail pending further enquiries, with conditions not to enter Wells.
Thankfully no work was completed and no money changed hands.
Police also identified three households – all in their 70s or 80s – in Wincanton who have fallen victim to fraudsters. In each case work was carried out on driveways which was paid for through a debit card – and the card details have then been used fraudulently.
Officers have carried out house-to-house enquiries in each area.
Hundreds of vans have been stopped in multi-agency operations across the force area including in Bath, Bristol, Saltford, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil.
Police and Trading Standards officers have also been carrying out joint patrols visiting households where work is being carried out. The officers checked that the work was being carried out to appropriate standards and that the householders had been offered a 14-day cooling-off period.
Officers also raised awareness through:
• visiting banks and Post Offices
• leaflet drops
• displays in supermarkets and garden centres
• joining Meals on Wheels to visit vulnerable people
• messages to Neighbourhood Watch groups asking members to report suspicious callers
• holding beat surgeries and calling into libraries, churches, doctors’ surgeries, coffee mornings and community groups
• local radio interviews
• social media
Neighbourhood teams have also been revisiting people previously affected by this type of crime to reassure them and review their home security.
Please help to protect any vulnerable relatives or friends by helping to find reputable tradespeople and sharing police advice:
• if in doubt, keep them out – use a door chain, intercom or video doorbell/viewer with unknown or unexpected visitors
• check identification – genuine callers expect this and will wait
• if you’re not sure, don’t open the door and report it by calling 101
• if you feel threatened or intimidated call 999 straight away
• lock your doors while you’re in your garden or another room
• keep cash in the bank, not at home
• join Neighbourhood Watch
• set up a 'No Cold Calling Zone' through your local council
• as a trusted relative or friend to deal with callers on your behalf through our ‘Nominated Neighbour’ scheme
• sign up to utility companies’ password schemes
Fraudsters can also contact you online or over the phone. Visit the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre Action Fraud’s website, www.actionfraud.police.uk
, for up-to-date information on fraud.
Posted on Thursday 18th October 2018