Be alert to cold callers as lockdown restrictions ease

North Yorkshire residents are being reminded not to deal with cold callers offering property repairs and gardening work.

scams

The warning comes from North Yorkshire Trading Standards and North Yorkshire Police as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions start to be eased and concerns rise about doorstep callers taking advantage of the changes to exploit vulnerable residents.

Throughout the lockdown, there has been publicity of Covid-19 scams in relation to supplies of PPE and hand sanitisers, products that allegedly cure the disease and false testing claims, but doorstep crime reports have been starkly absent as people’s movements have been restricted.

County Councillor Andrew Lee, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: “We know these offenders are always on the lookout opportunities to defraud the elderly and vulnerable, but their ability to do so has been curtailed in recent weeks due to the lockdown provisions.

“We are very concerned that they will soon be back out and about cold calling vulnerable residents and trying to persuade them to have roofing, driveway, pressure washing, gardening and other work undertaken.

“Our message is very clear. Residents should not deal with doorstep callers.”

Typical doorstep scams include:

  • claims of work being required when it is not;
  • gross overcharging for work;
  • poor-quality work and damage to properties;
  • failure to provide the necessary paperwork to residents, including the name of the trader and an address at which they can be contacted if problems arise with the work;
  • failure to give residents 14 days to cancel the contract, which is a statutory requirement; and
  • elderly and vulnerable residents being driven to the bank by offenders to withdraw cash.

Residents who need property repairs or work done in their gardens are advised to get three quotations from local traders and to take time to consider them before going ahead with work. Ideally, people should use someone that has been recommended by a friend of family member.

Where that is not possible, they should approach traders for quotations through a trusted website, such as the County Council’s North Yorkshire Buy Local.

DI Jon Hodgeon of North Yorkshire Police said: “We’ve seen a number of scammers taking advantage of coronavirus and lockdown to target individuals but there are ways everyone can protect themselves. We advise never to open the door to anyone you don’t know and certainly never invite a stranger into your home without verifying their identity first. An individual claiming to be a representative of an organisation should be more than happy to show you their ID card and even for you to ring their company to double check.

“High-pressure techniques or requests for money should raise immediate alarm bells. Remember, you do not have to open the door to cold callers and you have every right to ask them to leave.”  

Doorstep traders can be reported to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133, or to the Police on 101, or 999 in emergency situations.

This story was published 16 June 2020