Fraudsters who have already brought anxiety and distress to vulnerable residents across the borough are doubling their victims’ torment by revisiting them with the intent of working their cons again.
Croydon’s trading standards team is worried that such victims are proving an easy target for heartless criminals following a number of such incidents taking place over recent weeks.
- A retired Waddon resident who, last year, fell victim to roofers who took upfront payments of £13,000 but then failed to carry out any work, was approached by a man offering to clean his gutter for £10. Removing roof tiles, he told the householder that repairs were needed, and that they would cost £15,000. Independent inspection showed that minimal work was required.
- In Fairfield, an 83-year-old householder previously conned by a builder who had taken thousands of pounds in payments from her over the years, in return for minimal amounts of work, was revisited by the builder who declared that he was going to finish the work on her roof. He was told that no work was to be carried out. However, two months later, three young men claiming to be from a roofing company called at the house and caused damage to the outside of the property.
Retargeting elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable victims is not a new development but the recent increase in the number of such cases, within a short period of time, has left council officers concerned that it might be the work of an organised team, singling out residents they know to have previously fallen victim.
Shifa Mustafa, Croydon Council’s executive director with responsibility for safety, warned: “It’s a known fact that gangs of scammers and rogue traders swap information about addresses at which they have successfully conned householders out of money. In some cases this amounts to thousands of pounds – money they’ve saved over many years with a view to financing their lives during retirement.
“To go back and target those people for a second time is reprehensible, and can leave the victims genuinely traumatised – fearful for their safety in the home they’d always considered safe.
“Our advice is that nobody should ever employ cold-callers who say they’re able to do whatever job they claim to be urgent at a cut-price rate. Always get three estimates from reputable companies for any work. And, if you’re unsure, ask a relative or friend to be present when traders, who you’ve invited, call to price the work.”
The council’s trading standards team has the following tips for householders.
• invite cold callers into your home;
• believe that work cold callers offer to take on is urgent or necessary; and
• never allow yourself to be taken to the bank by a trader to withdraw cash.
• obtain several written estimates before any work is undertaken, and obtain a breakdown of costs;
• look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours; and
• report it – if an incident is happening, and you are concerned, call the police on 999, and trading standards on 020 8407 1311. If not urgent, call the police non-emergency number 101, and the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.