Spike in doorstep crime as lockdown is eased

Heartless doorstep criminals have scammed an elderly Buckinghamshire resident out of £20,000 for spurious roof repairs while his wife was in hospital being treated for Covid-19.

Roof work: tiling being carried out by genuine roofing specialists: warning to be wary of cold-calling cowboy roofers.

Two cold-callers, offering to clean gutters for £15, ended up relieving the resident of thousands after telling him his roof tiles needed urgent attention. A family member raised the alarm when the scammers asked for another £20,000.

This was one of three scams reported in Buckinghamshire as coronavirus lockdown rules were relaxed over the past week, representing a spike in doorstep crime from reports over the last two months.

And it has prompted fresh warnings from Trading Standards officers to residents, their neighbours and families, to be wary of cold calling and to report anything suspicious.

In another incident, doorstep callers conned a resident out of £50,000 for “fixing” a loose chimney and other roof work that didn’t need doing. The resident’s bank raised an alert over the amount being withdrawn from the account.

A third incident involved two cold callers who said they were exempt from lockdown restrictions. Fortunately, the resident didn’t like their attitude and sent them packing.

“That’s exactly what we should be doing to these cowboys – send them away,” said Fred Wilson, Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services.. “I’m urging residents to be very, very wary about responding to cold-callers on the doorstep.

“These rogues target the elderly or vulnerable and pressure them to start work immediately,” explained Fred. “Once they’ve started the price rockets and they clear off once they’ve been paid, leaving the work half done and the resident bewildered and traumatised.

“Our Trading Standards officers work hard to catch these criminals, and fortunately we have ears and eyes of a fantastic number of people in our Street Associations around the county who look out for their elderly and vulnerable neighbours, watching out for scammers. I’d encourage everyone to keep a weather eye at this time.”

As communities emerge from lockdown and the weather improves, Trading Standards anticipates an increase in rogue trader fraud on the doorstep, especially targeting vulnerable residents who may be maintaining social distancing.

Fred said Trading Standards’ advice was always to say “No thank you – please leave” and then close the door. Where there is concern about possible danger, he advised calling the police on 101 or, in an emergency, dialling 999. Trading Standards can be reached via the Citizens’ Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133.

For work that needs doing, Trading Standards recommends residents use a legitimate business such as those listed at the Trading Standards-approved trader scheme www.traders4u.co.uk

Top tips to avoid getting tricked out of your money:

  • Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to shut the door.
  • Take your time, don’t be rushed.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, if you need help talk to someone you know or get in touch with the council.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know.
  • Never engage with someone or allow them access to your home unless you are able to verify their authenticity and who they are.

The three doorstep crime reports are being urgently investigated by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards with Thames Valley Police.

In the past two years Trading Standards have investigated 120 reports of doorstep crimes across Buckinghamshire.