ROGUE traders and pushy doorstep sellers have been targeted in a combined operation.
The police, Trading Standards and other government agencies are taking part, and the operation comes as part of a week of activities to highlight the dangers that come about by consenting to have work carried out by cold callers.
In the past year Lancashire Trading Standards has received 349 complaints about cold callers, including builders, driveway and roofing workmen plus bogus charity collectors. Some 882 complaints were received about bogus sales in the same period.
In addition 456 complaints have been received about unwanted unsolicited scam mail and 990 complaints have been received about unsolicited scam telephone calls.
An 84-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman from the Ribble Valley, who wish to remain anonymous, were targeted by rogue traders in June after receiving a cold call.
They agreed to pay £800 to have their driveway resurfaced, paying £400 up front and agreeing to hand over a further £400 after the work had been completed.
Within two days of the work being done, weeds began to show and the couple called Trading Standards. The couple were advised not to pay the remaining money, so when the workman turned up for the cash they refused.
The workman then said he would tear up the driveway and get people to pour diesel on it.
Despite the advice they had been given, the couple were so afraid and intimidated by this threat that they decided to pay the additional £400.
The 84-year-old man said: “We were very nervous and upset about it – thinking we had been conned for a rough job. We couldn’t sleep at night and were worried about the chap coming back.
“We were vulnerable and they conned us into it. We were stressed for a couple of months afterwards.
“People are warned not to deal with cold callers and I think that’s right. Ring Trading Standards who can give you a list of all the good joiners and electricians.”
The operation has seen increased police patrols in areas where older and vulnerable people live, advice packs distributed to residents and roadside checkpoints.
Supt Peter O’Dwyer, of Lancashire Constabulary, said: “Rogue traders are not welcome in Lancashire – they prey on vulnerable members of our community and we have seen them con people out of vast sums of money for work that is substandard, unnecessary and overpriced.
“We hope that this operation will catch those responsible and raise awareness of the dangers of rogue traders and doorstep crime.
“I would urge residents to never agree to have any work done as a result of a cold call. Don’t make snap decisions and don’t be pressurised into having the job done. Only pay once work is completed to your satisfaction.’’
l People should report cases of rogue traders or uninvited doorstep callers to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. Anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of any distraction burglar or rogue trader should ring Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers, the national charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111. Always dial 999 in an emergency.
To find out more about the Safe Trader scheme in Lancashire, visit www.safetrader.org.uk or call 0303 333 1111.