A simple roof job for a Sussex householder, which started off with a broken tile, eventually finished up with a staggering bill of £25,000 from a rogue builder.
Sussex Police say this was one of a number of offences which they uncovered as part of their most recent operation against rogue traders which saw more than 200 people arrested.
Yesterday, rogue traders and pushy doorstep sellers across Sussex were targeted as part of UK-wide day of action.
It was being led by the police service and trading standards and has seen police officers, trading standards officers and members of government agencies join forces.
The last operation in 2011 saw £450,000 worth of property recovered and nearly 10,000 vehicles inspected.
In Sussex there were multi agency patrols and stop checks with police, trading standards and the Environment Agency.
PCSOs conducted crime prevention patrols in hotspot areas, advising and reassuring vulnerable people about the steps they can take to protect themselves from both rogue traders and distraction burglars and where they can find further information and support.
Sergeant Chris Lane said: “In Sussex, police, working with trading standards and other agencies, are using intelligence and Automated Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to seek out vehicles used by people suspected of being involved in rogue trading activity.
“The scale of the problem is difficult to quantify as often victims do not report offences, and the offences reported can be recorded in several different ways, including fraud, theft and intimidation. However anecdotal evidence makes it very clear that this is an issue that law enforcement needs to focus on. As well as seeking offenders we are advising vulnerable people on how to protect themselves from these collous criminals.”
People can report cases of rogue traders or uninvited doorstep callers to Citizens Advice Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06, but anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of any distraction burglar or rogue trader should ring their local police or call Crimestoppers, the national charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111. Always dial 999 in an emergency.
Highlighting the dangers posed by cold callers, Operation Rogue Trader’s message is: Not Sure? Don’t Open the Door!
· Check the identity of the caller by telephoning the company they are purporting to be from. Use the telephone numbers listed in your local directory or provided independently by your service provider.
· Check whether traders are members of the Local Authority Assured Trader Schemes or the Government Trust Mark scheme.
· Discuss any work you feel needs carrying out on your property with a relative or friend
who can help you find a reputable trader
· Never pay cash up front and don’t ever go to the bank or cashpoint with a trader.
· If you suspect a rogue trader caller is at your door dial 999
· Don’t agree to any work or sign anything on the spot. Do not be pressured into having any work carried out
Evidence strongly suggests that there are links between those who commit distraction burglary and those who are involved in rogue trading. Those who commit these offences often cross county borders which highlights the importance of a national operation such as Operation Liberal.
ACPO lead for Operation Liberal Peter Goodman said: “Rogue traders prey on the most vulnerable in society, conning them out of vast sums of money, which in many cases are their life savings, for unnecessary and overpriced work. When some falls foul of a rogue trading scam, research shows it has a seriously detrimental effect on the victim’s health and their confidence.
“Those involved in this form of illegal activity do not tend to be law abiding citizens in other aspects of their life.
“By involving a range of differnet agencies, we can seriously hamper their offending patters and get them off the streets.”