A man claiming to be a council official has conned a Croydon restaurant out of £280 after weaving a plausible story of an outstanding debt and a steep fine if it remained unpaid.
Now the council is warning traders and residents to be alert and remember that no council official would ever ask for an on-the-spot cash settlement.
In the latest example of a well-worn scam, a man presented himself at the restaurant, quickly showing an ID card and claiming that he was a food safety inspector, there to collect an unpaid fine owing from the last inspection. He said the fine had been levied for breach of health and safety regulations and, if not paid immediately, would increase to £600.
His knowledge of the offence and trading name of the company convinced the chef that he was genuine, and the chef duly handed over £280.
Councillor David Wood, deputy cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“This is doorstep crime that can happen at a business or residence – and is extremely serious. Posing as a trusted official in order to con money out of somebody makes it even more offensive.
“Everybody should always be cautious of cold callers offering any kind of service, and especially if they’re demanding some sort of payment.
“Criminals look to take advantage of trusting, unsuspecting people and that’s why I stress the importance of everybody always being vigilant and reporting any suspicious visitors they may have.”
Anybody contacted by somebody claiming to be a council officer – in person, by telephone or letter – can check their identity by calling the local authority concerned; the number of Croydon Council’s call centre is 020 8726 6000. Any alternative number suggested by the caller should not be called; only the council’s listed number should be called to confirm an officer’s details.