How not to be a victim of doorstep crime
West Yorkshire trading standards are continuing to warn residents about the dangers of doorstep crime and the long term impact it can have on victims. Now that the summer months are upon us, it is particularly important as rogue traders will arrive offering their services.
What is doorstep crime?
When Someone tries to sell you something or gets you to sign up for something in your home or place of work. They may be genuine salesperson, but sometimes it’s a scam.
Doorstep Crime can affect anyone, but often elderly and vulnerable people are targeted by rogue traders offering home improvement services, or by bogus callers who claim to be from the council, police, health carers, market researchers or utility and phone companies.
The warning comes as we enter a period where uninvited rogue traders seek to take advantage of the warm weather offering household repairs and jobs, such as window/gutter cleaning, roofing work, driveway repairs and garden clearance services, with an aim of cheating householders out of their money. Often the jobs are shoddy with substandard repairs, charging extortionate prices for unnecessary jobs, and even taking money without doing any work. The cost of repairs to the unfinished or inferior quality work can often leave consumers in unexpected debt.
Traders posing as officials
Sometimes thieves turn up on your doorstep claiming to be there on official business. They may say they are from the council, that they’re a police officer or are there to read your gas or electricity meter.
Once you’ve let them into your home, they distract your attention and steal money or goods, often by having a second person working with them. If someone turns up unexpectedly on your doorstep like this, always check out their ID before letting them in. If they don’t have ID, don’t let them in.
Call the relevant organisation, for example the council, using a number from the phone book or internet. Don’t use a number on the trader’s ID card. Real officials should be happy to wait. If you are not happy after this, ask them to call and make an appointment or come back another time. You may wish to have a friend or relative with you when they come back.
Some organisations, like energy companies, have password schemes for you to check you are speaking to someone from the real company.
Avoid being a victim by following these ‘Stay Safe’ Tips
- Be aware of pressure selling tactics such as claims of special offers or offers that are only on for one day and don’t let them make you think that you are the odd one out on the street who hasn’t bought from them.
- If someone claims they are part of a Trade Association or an approved body, ensure they have evidence and don’t be scared to check up on them.
- If you have arranged an appointment and for someone to come and see you, use the password scheme when booking with the organisation. If the person calling on you doesn’t know the agreed password, don’t let them in.
- Have a spy hole or peephole on your door so you can see who is calling
- Use a door chain before letting anybody in.
- Always ask for ID and confirm it with the organisation they claim to be with by getting the number from your local directory or the internet (see list of useful numbers below). Don’t rely on the number the salesperson has given you.
- Always have your doors locked. Distraction burglaries occur when one person has you engaged at the front door and an accomplice enters through the back door.
A study into the impact of doorstep crime on older victims has shown that their health declines faster than non-victims of a similar age. The study also found that victims of doorstep crime are 2.4 times more likely to be in residential care 2 years after a burglary/incident than their non-burgled neighbours.
In the year ending December 2013, 207,252 fraud offences were recorded by the police and Action Fraud based on reports from members of the public. This represents a volume increase of 25% compared with the previous year.
David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire trading standards said: “Some criminals won’t go to the trouble of breaking into your home if they can just knock on your door and be invited in.Typical scams include claims that tiles or chimneys are loose and dangerous and how in the summer months it is perfect time to get sorted. The same with gardening and tree-lopping where they can be very persuasive and convincing. Large sums of money are also charged for small amounts of gardening work to clear away shrubs and trees. Never be afraid to report anyone who is suspicious to the police.”
If you think you’ve been a victim of doorstep crime, you can get advice from: Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0845 404 0506 go to their website at www.adviceguide.org.uk
Give as many details about what’s happened to you as possible, so that you get the best advice you can. If the law has been broken the matter may be referred to your local Trading Standards Department. This may help bring action against them and stop others becoming victims.
The SAFER (Scams & Fraud Education for Residents) workshops are running in local communities in Leeds & Bradford, highlighting the activities of rogue traders, scammers and fraudsters. Anyone interested in attending should contact-
Lanson Moore on email@example.com (Bradford area) or
Carrie Wilson on firstname.lastname@example.org (Leeds area)