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Council cautions consumers over cold-calling conmen

Waltham Forest Council’s Trading Standards Service has flagged up two recent cases of conmen looking to take advantage of local residents, with one consumer almost signing over his house to scammers and another only narrowly avoiding being taken advantage of by distraction burglars.


Trading Standards has recently seen an increase in complaints from local residents who have received visits from doorstep conmen. In one case a resident was pressurised into signing over his house, and it was only thanks to the advice of a neighbour that the situation did not develop further.


Last month two men cold-called a resident claiming to be working at the property next door and investigating a problem with damp they believed was coming from the resident’s property.


As a result the resident agreed to have some work done, at which point the trader advised the consumer of a scheme they were running. The alleged scheme offered the resident the opportunity of having works carried out on his property free of charge for the duration of his lifetime.


The only catch was that the resident was required to sign over his property to the traders, to be transferred to them upon his death. The trader informed the consumer it was not necessary to engage a solicitor and he would be taken to their offices based in Canary Wharf to discuss the scheme and sign the paperwork.


Thankfully the consumer spoke to a neighbour who saw through the scam and contacted the council. When the trader phoned the resident was asked if he had told anyone about the scheme. When he said he had discussed the matter with someone, the trader advised that the scheme was no longer available.


The resident was visited by officers from Trading Standards and the Police, who offered advice in respect of the tactics of rogue traders who engage in cold calling. The key advice was to contact the Police or Trading Standards if he was approached again, either at his home or over the phone.


Elsewhere in the borough, a resident in her eighties was targeted last month when a man knocked on her door and stated that there was an issue with the drains in the area. The resident invited the man in and they went to the rear of the property and into the garden to look at the drain.


However, they were disturbed by the burglar alarm inside the house sounding and on re-entering the property they encountered another man emerging from upstairs. The two men appeared to be startled and left immediately without taking any property.



The resident and her son later discovered that the alarm wire upstairs had been cut and the fire alarm had been smashed. The suspicion being that the burglars had assumed the fire alarm was part of the burglar alarm. The resident only remembered one man entering the property.


Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, said, “It’s a lesson to everyone that there are people out there looking to rip you off and you need to be on your guard.


“The advice we offer residents is to never agree to any work on your doorstep. Don’t be taken in by flashy brochures or professional looking invoices. Rogues will often use this as part of their pitch to make you think you are dealing with professionals. And ultimately if you feel threatened in any way call the Police immediately on 999 and report any rogue traders to Trading Standards for further investigation.”


Waltham Forest Council’s Trading Standards service can be contacted on 020 8496 3000 or by email at wfdirect@walthamforest.gov.uk


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