THREE vulnerable pensioners have been conned out of thousands of pounds of their savings by cowboy builders carrying out botch jobs on their homes.
Conmen roofers charged one pensioner £1,000 for two hours of unnecessary work, another was charged £1,300 for a similar job and a third victim was fleeced out of £1,600 to have his roof painted with a sweeping brush.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s trading standards team described the conmen as “despicable” and issued a fresh warning to residents after an increase of doorstep crime across the town.
Officials say doorstep crime can affect anyone. But often elderly and vulnerable people are targeted by these con artists offering home improvement services such as roofing or building work, path or driveway repairs and gardening work.
The rogue workmen demand large amounts of money for little or no service and the elderly victims are made to feel isolated and often pressured into paying, say trading standards chiefs.
Incidents have even occurred where victims have been driven to the bank or building society to withdraw the cash.
Council chiefs have also released several photographs of recent botch jobs on roofing, chimney stacks and one example where a homeowner paid hundreds of pounds to have their gutters cleared only for the work not to be done.
Trading Standards officers have reported receiving a high level of complaints recently about poor quality roofing work being performed on elderly people’s homes, which is why they are trying to raise awareness amongst town residents.
Ian Harrison, Hartlepool Council’s principal trading standards and licensing officer, said: “The targeting of elderly people to con them out of their savings is a despicable act.
“People should always be vigilant if approached by an uninvited doorstep caller, and they should always keep a chain on the door.
“People should never be pressurised into agreeing to buy something or have work done.
“Any caller who attempts to pressure you into having work done immediately should be treated with suspicion and avoided.”
The council says investigations are ongoing into the recent spate of incidents across the town.
The council’s awareness raising has been supported by a national charity which aims to help and support pensioners enjoy their later life.
Elizabeth Briggs, chief executive of Age UK Teesside, added: “Anyone who has concerns that they could be being scammed should not hesitate to ask a close relative or friend for their advice.
“It’s important to remember that a reputable company will never pressure a customer into making an instant decision without talking things through with a friend or family member first.”
The council’s Trading Standards team is advising anyone subjected to a visit from an uninvited trader to REACT by following the simple five point advice plan:
R – Refuse entry
E – Explain “I don’t deal with doorstep callers!”
A – Ask them to leave
C – Close the door
T – Tell Trading Standards by calling 01429 523362
Mr Harrison added: “Remember it’s your doorstep, your decision; it is okay to say no.”
Anyone who wants more information, guidance or advice is asked to call Hartlepool Trading Standards on (01429) 523362.