Scams, rogue traders and bogus callers
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Not everyone who comes to our front door is out to trick us or to take advantage of us, but it is important to be aware that some people are happy to prey on those who might be particularly vulnerable as a result of their age or a health problem.
And criminals are increasingly using letters, phones and the internet as a way of tricking people out of their money, usually by promising amazing rewards to the victim at some point in the future if that person pays money up front now.
Being a victim of this kind of behaviour can be extremely distressing and frightening, and in the worst cases can lead to financial ruin for the person concerned.
What to look out for
Bogus callers, sometimes known as conmen or doorstep thieves, are people who try to trick their way into your home with the intention of either stealing money or property, or of conning you into paying them money.
These people often work in teams of two or more and they usually prey on older or vulnerable people. Bogus callers can use many different guises to gain entry to your home, often pretending to be council officials, workmen from gas, water or electricity supply companies, the fire brigade, trading standards officers, or even the police.
For example there are stories of fake plumbers telling residents that their neighbour's property has been flooded and asking if they have seen any signs of a leak. The victim is then distracted so an accomplice can enter the property and spill water onto the kitchen or bathroom floor. The 'plumber' offers to install a pump to fix the leak and demands £5000 in cash from the victim as a 'deposit' for hire of the equipment with the assurance that the money will be refunded. Alternatively they will, once they have gained entry to the property, steal money and other valuable items.
Most genuine companies will send you a letter before they visit. Ask your gas, water or electricity supplier if they can give you a unique password for additional security.
A rogue trader is someone who tries to sell unnecessary products or services, or provides a service of a poor standard or which they are not properly qualified to provide. They often target vulnerable people or people living alone, and can be quite clever and persuasive.
These people will commonly offer to carry out repairs or building works on your home and garden, and can be persistent and convincing. Many of these rogue traders will overcharge their victims, provide a poor standard of work, and usually fail to give notice of a consumer's cancellation rights.
If a workman says you need repairs or building work, tell them you will get some quotes for the work from other companies and get back to them. Always use a reputable company to carry out repairs or work on your property.
Never buy or agree to buy anything at the door, and don't let a person into your home unless you are sure they are representing a legitimate business.
The following websites allow you to look for tradespeople near you and read reviews from previous customers, so that you can find out what other people think about the quality of the work and service:
Criminals often send letters, texts and emails to people, or phone them up, asking them to donate money to a worthy cause, or to invest in something which will make a fortune for them further down the line.
Please remember that you don't have to respond to these requests for your money, and you should consider reporting them to the police.
The Think Jessica charity is committed to making people aware of the danger and financial implications caused by postal and telephone scams, and was set up by the daughter of an older person who was the victim of such scams.
TrueCall are a non-profit organisation who provide electronic call blockers and other devices which will help you to manage and avoid silent calls, telephone scams, marketing calls and other nuisance calls. Their services are particularly targetted at protecting older and vulnerable residents.
Our 'Other information and advice' section at the bottom of the page gives details of various other websites which provide information which will help you to spot these scams.
What to do
If you are the victim of a rogue trader or bogus caller, or have been tricked into giving away your money to a scammer, then don't be embarrassed and don't stay silent; reporting your experience may help you to get your money back, and will hopefully ensure that the culprits are brought to justice, and that other people are protected from going through the same upsetting experience as you have.
If you think that a bogus caller, a rogue trader or a bogus workmen is at your house right now, or that you have just been the victim of a scam, then contact the police by ringing 999.
If think that you or someone you know has previously been the victim of conmen then contact the police non-emergency line by ringing 101.
If you are worried about rogue traders, bogus callers, scams or other criminal activity in your area then you can call your local police Safer Neighbourhood team, and someone will discuss your concerns with you.
If you have information about bogus callers, phone CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111 - your call is free and you will not be asked for your name
Action Fraud is the UK's national fraud reporting centre where you should report fraud if you have been scammed or defrauded.They provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially-motivated internet crime.
If you are worried that someone who is vulnerable because of their age, a disability or a health problem has been taken advantage of then consider making a Safeguarding Adults referral to your local council's Adult Social Care department.
Victim Support is the national independent charity that offers support to victims of crime including women, men and children experiencing domestic abuse.
They will help by providing you with information, practical help and emotional support, and do this by:
- Always prioritising your safety
- Giving you time to think and to make decisions
- Offering continued support whatever decisions you make
- Putting you in touch with other agencies that can help, for example with housing, benefits and legal advice
- Helping you to explore your options for dealing with the abuse
Their services are confidential, free and available to everyone.
Victim Support accepts referrals from official and other organisations as well as self-referrals from individuals themselves, whether or not you want to report the crime to the police and regardless of when it happened.
You can contact Victim Support:
- Call the West London Victim Assessment and Referral Service on freephone 0808 168 9291.
Lines are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays.
- You can also contact your local victim care team in West London on 020 7259 2424.
Lines are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
- Alternatively, you can contact them via live chat - normal operating hours are from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
If you live in Hammersmith and Fulham then you may be eligible for the council's Careline alarm service if you have been the victim of a bogus caller.
Other information and advice
You may want to find out if there is a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in your area, and how to get involved.
The Financial Conduct Authority provides advice on how to spot scams when you are being asked to invest money, and on what to do if you have been tricked into paying money to a scammer.
The National Careline website has useful information in its 'Safety at Home' section on a number of related subjects including bogus callers and 'scams'
The online Citizens Advice Bureau Advice Guide has information on how to spot a scams.
You can also contact the CAB direct for advice if you have been the victim of a scam - call tel 03454 04 05 06
The Money Advice Service website contains advice on scams and identity theft
The Rated People website allows you to search for businesses in your area and see what feedback other customers have given.
The Which? Local website provides recommendations from customers for all kinds of businesses in your area.
Which have also also produced a number of useful guides on scams, including how to spot them, how to report them and how you may be able to get your money back.
The Easy Health website has gathered various easy-to-read leaflets which gives tips on how live more safely within your home, including on dealing with possible criminals, and may be of particular use to people with learning disabilities.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (based in Birmingham but supporting people in Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea) offer specialist advice to people who have been the victims of illegal loan sharks - these are people who have lent you money without a licence to do so, and offer charge huge interest rates and use threatening behaviour when getting the money back.
Contact the team:-
Phone - 0300 555 2222
Text to: loan(space)shark(space) + your message to 60003