Scams – Rouge Traders – Cold Callers – do you know your rights?
When this happens to you, one of the first calls you make should be to your local Trading Standards Officers.
The work of Trading Standards is very diverse covering nearly all aspects of the transactions we make daily, monthly and a couple of times in a life time. Referrals are made via Citizens Advice, other enforcement agencies and the public can ring or write directly to their local Trading Standards.
What powers do Trading Standards have? Trading Standards can enter a business, demand and retain documents, carry out interviews, seek undertakings from a business not to commit civil breaches and to seize goods and vehicles. So a wide range of powers to ensure consumer protection.
Rouge Traders – Have you had someone knock on your door to tell you that you need a couple of slates on your roof? Your gutters need clearing? Your windows need repairing etc.? ‘Friendly’ people who will do the job very quickly and in fact ‘are doing you a favour’ – they are not. Never agreed to work being done without getting advice or references or some one else to be with you. There are three main types of ‘ traders’ – people who will undertake work that does not need doing and then charging exorbitant prices and may even help you go to the bank to get the cash. The distraction burglary which involves at least 2 people – often posing as gas, water or electricity people and while one person is talking the other person goes to different rooms and steals. All Utility Services provide staff with ID and a telephone number to call if unsure. It has been known for children to also work this fraud by one child asking for a glass of water while the other child looks for a handbag etc. Then there is the just basically incompetent trader of who takes on work that he or she is not competent or qualified to do e.g. sorting out a boiler but if it is a gas boiler any maintenance must be undertaken by a qualified person. The ‘trader’ will target properties that may appear on the outside to be the home of someone vulnerable. Hand rails and other adaptations are one of the things they look out for. Rogue traders are less common in inner London boroughs due to fewer owner occupiers and difficulty in parking but they are still around.
Sales people – do you get really fed up when you are comfortably sitting down only for the door bell to ring and it’s some one trying to sell you something. At times they are very persistent and make closing the door on them very difficult and somehow they have walked into your home while talking to you without you really wanting them to come in. The other big nuisance is the sales telephone calls. The aim of both is to sell their products without due regard to the person and which are not needed, generally overpriced, ill-described and often not fit for purpose. Remember – you have the right to receive paperwork as part of your contract and there is a cooling off period when you can change your mind without penalties so get advice.
What’s in your post? Is it mainly mail which is the official confirmation of a cheque award –but only if you either send some money for membership or administration or if you buy something from the enclosed catalogue which is very overpriced? Many of us get dozens of these letters/offers each week and they are a scam. Once you reply your details are then sold to other companies who also send you piles of offers and winning details. Never reply – either recycle the material or put on the envelope – return to sender. The companies are made to pay for this and is one of the best ways of getting off these sorts of databases. If this is happening to someone you know who is very vulnerable remember Contract Law requires the person to have the understanding and capacity to agree to a contract. There is also a telephone and mail preference service and although these may reduce the scam mail – if it is coming from abroad it will not be stopped.
Remember – don’t get caught – if you do – contact your local Trading Standards Officers. They take all criminal offences and civil breaches against vulnerable adults very seriously and have numerous powers to deal with traders targeting all adults. The sad impact these crimes may have on vulnerable people is that once they become a victim they may well be targeted again which makes people become more dependant on services and may lose the ability and confidence to continue to live independently.