Police urge residents to say no to cold callers after spate of incidents
Fraud officers are urging residents to say ‘no’ to cold callers after numerous victims were conned out of thousands of pounds.
Nottinghamshire Police has received a rise in reports of rogue or bogus traders targeting vulnerable residents in doorstep scams.
Recent examples include cold callers:
offering to provide goods or services which are of poor quality or deliberately overcharged; quoting for unnecessary work; damaging property deliberately in order to obtain money; leaving work unfinished; intimidating residents to extort money.
In one case, a Nottingham resident lost over £100,000 after being conned three times by rogue traders, who pressurised him into having roof work done. The victim, in his 60s, was left distraught when he discovered the work carried out was insufficient and did not warrant the amount he paid.
In another case, a frail woman in her 90s was left shaken and frightened after two men pressured her into accepting a £2,000 quote for repair work to her garage roof in Kirkby-in-Ashfield. It was only the intervention of a concerned neighbour that meant the two men left empty handed.
In Hucknall, a 81-year-old woman agreed to pay a cold caller £20 for roof tile replacements. The cold caller went on to persuade her to pay £800 for additional work. Her relatives contacted police after suspecting she had been pressured into paying for unnecessary repairs.
Fraud officers are also investigating a series of incidents in Retford where a bogus tradesman failed to carry out roof repairs at three properties after pocketing thousands of pounds in upfront payments.
Sergeant Sally Collins, of Nottinghamshire Police’s Fraud Protect team, said the spike began in May when 13 reports were made, with a further 14 incidents recorded in June.
She said: “We’ve had one job where the rogue trader has accepted money for repair work and he just stuck Sellotape around the chimney. They told the elderly customer they’d put flashing around it, knowing they were too frail to go up onto the roof to check the work.”
“A lot of victims pay the money because they can’t handle the pressure these rogue traders put them under. Some are in such a frail state that they pay money just so they are left alone.”
Sergeant Tara Clapperton, also from the Fraud Protect team, added: “They put people under such pressure. They says things like, ‘you definitely need your roof doing or it will fall down on your house’. We’ve had cases where people have paid thousands of pounds for just a few tiles.”
Nottinghamshire Police has two Fraud Investigation teams who work to bring offenders to justice. In recent weeks, they include 64-year-old David Aves, who was jailed for three years in June after repeatedly failing to deliver goods he had sold to customers.
Sgt Collins said the force will not hesitate to put offenders before the courts, but added it was better to prevent incidents in the first place.
She said: “It can be difficult to put offenders before the courts because you need your victims to be willing to give evidence. But unfortunately, many are elderly and are too frail to leave the house or don’t want to attend court.
“It restricts our ability to disrupt and prosecute offenders, which is why preventative measures are so crucial in tackling this issue.”
Asked what people should do if a cold caller knocks on their door, Sgt Clapperton said: “Never agree to have work done or part with money on your doorstep – always discuss with a friend or relative to make your choice, not with the person at the door.
“If someone says you need work doing, always check with a reputable company. There’s a Government website called Buy With Confidence who can help you find a reputable trader.
“Our message is simple: Say ‘no’ to cold callers. You should not feel under any obligation to buy from people on your doorstep firmly but politely refuse the sales.
“Should they become aggressive and refuse to leave, please phone us immediately on 999. If it is non-urgent and you wish to inform us of the incident, please call on 101 or report it via the website.”
Warning signs of a rogue or bogus trader
They refuse to give you a written quote.
Without a paper trail or written quote, it’s hard for you to look into their company, compare prices or contact them if things start to go wrong. Always get itemised quotes from several providers that show exactly what you’re paying for.
They pressure you into an urgent decision.
You shouldn’t feel rushed into having work done on your home by someone on your doorstep. Calmly explain that you cannot commit or pay now and want to get other quotes. A reputable trader will understand. If the work is needed, take the time to ask different tradespeople questions about why it's needed and why they’re recommending particular materials. Ask friends, family and neighbours for advice too. They may have had similar work done or know a good tradesperson.
They don't have a website or any online presence.
Not all tradespeople will be on social media or independent comparison websites. But these are good places to check for reviews and examples of their work. It’s always worth doing a quick search for them online to read other people’s experiences.
They say they’re doing some work locally, but you cannot go round and see their work.
With home improvements, it can be useful to see a tradesperson’s previous work and speak to their past customers. What were they like to work with? Were they respectful of the property? Was the quote accurate? This won’t always be possible. But if they’re doing work locally and happened to notice something on your home, it’s a warning sign if you cannot go to their other, local site.
They tell you to go to a branch and take out cash while they set up.
You should never pay upfront for work on your property. A small, nominal deposit following an exchange of a written quote or other paperwork can be OK. But the full price should only be paid on completion.
For more useful tips, please read Take Five’s guide to doorstep scams: Doorstep Scam | Take Five (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk)