Bank cashier saves scammed pensioner thousands
The understanding built up between the council’s trading standards team and bank branches across the borough was instrumental in preventing a pensioner losing thousands to a rogue trader.
The attempted scam came to light after an 80-year-old Thornton Heath man was cold-called at home and told that he could renew the guarantee to the exterior wall coating of his house. The coating had been applied between 10 and 15 years previously.
The cold caller offered to examine the condition of the coating and, in so doing, removed an area from the wall and told the householder that the damaged coating would need to be replaced, and that other maintenance should be carried out at the same time.
He quoted a price of £3,000 for the work, stating that payment would have to be in cash.
The resident, who has arthritis, agreed the price and had to pay £17 for a cab to the Norbury branch of Barclays Bank to withdraw the funds. A vigilant cashier was concerned that he was withdrawing such a large amount of cash and asked the customer to what use the money would be put. When told, the cashier called the council’s trading standards department.
After speaking to the householder, attending officers ascertained that a scam was being worked and advised that the money not be withdrawn, saving the man £3,000 and the likelihood of, at best, shoddy workmanship to his home, or possibly no work being done at all and his money disappearing along with the promise of repairs.
The council’s trading standards department recommends that work should not be given to unsolicited cold callers. At least three estimates should be sought from reputable companies – none of which would demand cash payment – and, where possible, personal recommendations obtained from previous customers.
Reputable traders can be found via websites such as www.trustmark.org.uk or http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk. The listed traders are vetted and approved by independent assessors.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice, said: “Lots of hard work has been done by our trading standards officers in building up a relationship with local bank and building society branches.
“Cases like this underline the value of that work, and the cashier in this instance is to be commended for being alert to the possibility that an elderly customer was being swindled out of a sizable amount of his life savings.”
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