Crackdown on rogue traders, scams and cons in Hartlepool after 68% rise in complaints

Rogue traders and scammers are to face a crackdown after a 68% rise in cases – with social media causing a headache for officers.

Monday, 1st July 2019, 22:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 13:36 pm
File picture as Hartlepool trading standards pledge crackdown on scams and cons

Trading standards bosses have pledged to crackdown on rogue traders, scams and cons as part of their plans for the coming year.

It comes after figures showed an increase in complaints regarding ‘scams and cons’ in Hartlepool, with 114 received in 2018/19 - most involving elderly and vulnerable or elderly people - compared to 68 in 2015/16.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s neighbourhood services committee approved tackling the issues as a ‘high priority’ for trading standards in 2019/20.

The plan lists ‘product safety’ as the final high priority issue for the coming year, with medium priority issues including tackling under-age sales, counterfeiting and illicit tobacco and false descriptions.

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Sylvia Pinkney, head of public protection at the council, said scams and cons have changed in recent years.

She said: “Like all services, trading standards has got to respond to change. Retail has changed dramatically over recent years and now trading standards needs to monitor the virtual high street as well as the physical shops we’ve got.

“We also find, where counterfeit goods were one time sold from car boot sales or similar venues, they’re now being sold over social media.”

‘No cold call zones’

Several steps have already been taken by the council to protect vulnerable people, and since 2016, the number of no cold call zones in the town has increased from 7 to 40.

Also 10,000 ‘Say No to Doorstep Traders’ stickers have been issued, free of charge, to local residents.

Work has also been undertaken by the council in relation to mail order and telephone scams with free ‘call blockers’ being supplied to those considered most vulnerable.

Coun Marjorie James said she had recently received automated telephone scam calls claiming to be from BT Open Reach and HMRC, amongst others, noting elderly people could be particularly at risk from them.

She said: “In my opinion, there’s been a marked change in how these are operating.

“I can imagine older and more vulnerable people are falling for these scams, or they are giving in to them in order to stop getting them, but they are quite threatening.”

Coun Dave Hunter added he had also received the automated hoax call claiming to be from HMRC.

The council’s trading standards department also has a dedicated computer to monitor social media scams, and said it aims to identify common scams and notify consumers through mass media.

Coun John Tennant said: “I’d urge all councillors to raise the issue of no cold call zones and get more of those across the town.

“It really comes down to awareness, the type of scams and how they do it.”