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Real-Life Superhero

Real-Life Superhero

Published on 16 November 2020 04:30 PM

53% of people over 65 have been targeted by scams, costing the UK economy £5 billion to £10 billion a year.

We have all had people knocking at the door trying to sell us things. Most of us say "No, thank you". When these people come armed with leaflets and a branded van, you would be forgiven for thinking they're genuine. This is what happened to the target of this scam.

The property owner was handed a very professional looking leaflet from a cold caller. The leaflet had a website, email address and phone number, and was offering to clean gutters for £40. This seemed a reasonable price and the homeowner took them up on the offer.

When the traders came back to clean the guttering, one of the workmen went up the ladder and came down with some photos. The photos showed dead rats, birds nesting and overgrown grass in the guttering of the house.

Our homeowner was quoted £3,500 to complete the guttering work, almost 100 times more than the original quote of £40. This was when the alarm bells started to ring and they ‘smelled a rat’, it wasn’t one of the alleged ones up the drainpipe!

The work was agreed and the traders arranged to come back. In the meantime, our scam ‘victim’ alerted the neighbourhood on the local WhatsApp group. They also contacted the police who sent officers, rapidly turning the situation into a covert operation.

Our homeowner “didn’t want the scammers to get away with it” and by holding the traders to account “other people wouldn’t have to experience being scammed”. The workers returned to clear the guttering and proceeded to ask for another £3,500 to do the guttering at the back of the house. The homeowner did not agree to this, but they did the work.

We do not know if the gutters were cleaned properly or if the traders just made a ‘racket’ and a good show of working.

The tradesmen were invited back to provide a quote for a leaky roof, which was a setup. The police were ready with covert surveillance to record the encounter and gain evidence. The invoice for the guttering was given at this meeting. The invoice requested that the cheque should be made payable to a named individual. When questioned our traders said that this was the accountant.

Our local hero refused and wrote a cheque to the named company, post-dating the cheque by a few days. As soon as the traders left, the householder contacted the bank to cancel the cheque so that they were not out of pocket.

The Police tracked the number plate from the van to an address in Durham. Of the three men involved in the scam, the police only had enough evidence to have one of the men charged. He received five charges, mostly related to his van. However, the most important one for our local hero was the fraud charge. The fraudster is currently awaiting trial.

The scam buster said, “it’s awful ripping off older folk and they are quite clearly capable workman who could earn an honest living.” Our local hero had selflessly put themselves at risk to prevent others from being scammed.

They think that people who victimise older and vulnerable people “have no understanding of the impact they cause” and that “education is important to helping scammers realise how they are affecting people’s lives.”

We do not want you to fall foul of scammers. We have a free information course provided by Friends against Scams which shows you many of the tricks used by scammers. Age UK North Tyneside will continue to work closely with the Police to keep you updated on the latest scams and publish these to our website page. Age UK North Tyneside have a ‘Good Neighbours Project’ which aims to bring communities together and share information. If you are interested in this please get in touch.

If in doubt never hand over any monies, instead call our Information and Advice Team.

Tel: 0191 280 8484