News item

Banks to help ts

Croydon’s trading standards team are this week starting to visit banks throughout the borough to ask for help in the war against doorstep crime.

The council will be asking banking staff to be on the lookout for suspicious activity such as large transfers to foreign accounts or withdrawals of unusual amounts of cash.

The initiative comes in the wake of a series of recent incidents where vulnerable people have been tricked out of their savings through building scams, promises of large foreign lottery wins or surprise inheritances.

Alan Philips, Croydon’s trading standards team manager, said: ‘Vigilant bank employees can be the last line of defence in these cases. We have had several recent tip-offs that have helped us to save people money and bring about prosecutions. By reminding Croydon’s banks of what an important role they have to play I hope we can really cut down on this sort of crime in the borough.’

In the most recent reported case a Selhurst man was conned out of £2,000 and left with damage to his home after being taken in by a pair of cowboy builders.

The 57-year old divorcee was visited by two men who claimed to be working on the house next-door. They told him they suspected a damp problem was originating from his home and asked if they could come in to investigate.

Within hours they had pulled off doors and door frames, ripped out a radiator, pulled plaster off the walls and made a large hole in the ceiling. They had also pocketed £2,000 in cash and given an estimate of £12,000 to complete the work.

They then demanded to have £7,000 of this up-front, allegedly to pay for skip hire and other ‘expenses’.

Fortunately by the time they returned the next day the victim had been able to speak to his neighbour and investigate the firm that the men claimed to work for. And although the pair left him at this point he was still significantly out of pocket and faced with the real costs of putting right the damage that had been caused to his home.

Councillor Steve O’Connell, cabinet member for community safety, said: ‘We know that this year alone we have been able to save residents nearly £70,000 after getting tip-offs from local banks about suspicious transactions. However I am sure that a lot of this crime goes unreported. Our advice is to never let tradesmen into your home uninvited. But we know that some of these rogue traders can be very convincing, so it’s really important that people look out for anyone who might be trying to take advantage of someone who could be vulnerable to these scams.’