As part of a UK wide day of action, Cumbria Police along with Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards have been out in force targeting rogue traders and pushy doorstep sellers.
On Wednesday 24th April 2013 officers from the Cumbria Community Policing Unit, and Trading Standards were out in force across Cumbria tackling the problem of rogue traders and warning people about the dangers of consenting to having work carried out by cold callers.
Rogue trading involves the practice of cold calling and can lead to consumers being deliberately overcharged for unsatisfactory goods and services, unnecessary work being carried out or work being left unfinished once money has been handed over. They can also use aggressive and intimidating tactics to pressure the homeowner, who are often vulnerable adults, into handing money over.
Distraction burglars will target vulnerable people by cold calling at their home and then pressuring the person to allow them access inside, where they will proceed to steal cash or valuables.
Police and Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards work closely throughout the year to alert residents to the potential risks of buying goods or services at the door and take robust enforcement action against any doorstep traders who deliberately target older or more vulnerable residents.
In the last 12 months Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards has received around 300 reports of cold calling or rogue trader activity. On-going early interventions by the Trading Standards rapid response initiative has saved residents in Cumbria over £100,000.
During the national day of action, officers were out on the streets executing warrants, identifying vehicles used by criminals through automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and conducting intelligence-led patrols in areas where older or vulnerable people live.
Hundreds of leaflets were delivered to homes across Cumbria giving advice about rogue traders and checks were carried out on builders’ vans, paperwork, and operating methods.
Sergeant Richard Farnworth, from West Community Policing Unit, said “These criminals prey on the most vulnerable people in society. They use high pressured techniques to gain entry to their homes, conning them in undertaking work that is not necessary or required.
“We do want to stress that not all cold callers are criminals. Those who are there for legitimate purposes will be willing to show you identification, provide you with contact details of their business and should not pressurise you into trying to get into your home.
“Speak to friends and family about reputable companies, they will be able to advise on who they would recommend.
“Our aim is to help protect vulnerable members of our communities and ensure that they have the confidence to say no and shut the door.”
Angela Jones, Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards Service manager, said “This operation is designed to catch offenders and disrupt their activity but will hopefully raise awareness of doorstep crime. At this time of year, as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer we generally see an increase in cold calling and rogue traders. Many of these traders are not offering the required seven day cooling-off period and they often do a very poor job or charge extortionate amounts of money for very little work.
“No-one should feel pressured to buy goods or services at the doorstep, always obtain three quotes from reputable businesses. We hope this initiative will encourage residents to come forward and tell us about any suspicious cold calling activity to help protect the more vulnerable in our communities."
Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Police always provide the following advice:
· Not sure? Don't open the door.
· Call a neighbour, family member or friend nearby to come along and check out the caller before you open the door to them
· Look out for those who are vulnerable within your neighbourhood and family
· Consider joining the Trading Standards Nominated Neighbour Scheme
· Report suspicious activity to Trading Standards or the Police
· For help finding a reliable local trader check out the Trading Standards service 'Buy with Confidence' scheme on www.buywithconfidence.co.uk
If you wish to make a complaint about a trader or report illegal doorstep activities please report the matter to Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or the Police on 101.
Alternatively if you have any information about any person(s) who have committed such crimes or details of vehicles they use please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Your call is free and is completely anonymous. They are an independent charity that respects your anonymity and not part of Trading Standards or the Police.