VULNERABLE pensioners have been warned to watch out for Christmas con men after it emerged that one elderly resident had paid out a staggering £40,000 for building work which wasn’t needed.
The shocking rip-off is one of a number which have been reported in recent months across Hartlepool, with 10 criminal investigations being carried out on con men.
Another case saw an OAP driven to the bank by a so-called builder to withdraw £3,000 for building work, only for the man never to return to carry out the job.
An elderly couple quoted £45 to repair a loose tile ended up being charged £1,000, while an OAP living alone was conned into paying £1,600 of his savings for roofing work which didn’t need doing.
Trading Standards chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council are receiving calls on a weekly basis from elderly residents who have been conned into handing over “frightening” sums of money after being targeted by cowboy builders, roofers and gardeners.
There are fears the con men could try and rip off even more people during the winter period when the weather is particularly bad.
And with the amount of complaints having rapidly risen in the last six months, the local authority has now teamed up with the police in attempt to tackle the problem.
Ian Harrison, the council’s trading standards & licensing manager, said: “The increase in complaints is extremely disturbing and the amount of money that these rogue traders are making is frightening.
“In almost all cases, the victims are elderly or vulnerable and have been targeted in their homes – usually starting with a knock on the door from someone saying that they are in the area and have noticed something is wrong with their house.
“A quick inspection and fix is offered for a small price but this quickly escalates into many hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
“We have examples of traders driving elderly people to their bank to withdraw money and of traders calling back to the same house for money several times once they have gained the trust of their victim.
“In one case, a builder built up the trust of his victim and over a period of six month he collected £40,000 for a variety of building and roofing work.”
Mr Harrison says there are currently 10 cases which are being criminally investigated after calls were made to the council.
He added: “This isn’t a new problem, but it seems to have blown up since the summer.
“We received a lot of calls during the summer, and they have continued to come in to us.
“The problem hasn’t gone away, and our latest report was as recently as yesterday.
“As an organisation we actively chase these people and push for court action.
“These people could, and should, be sent to jail for what they are doing.”