Doorstep traders can be difficult to deal with. Not every person who knocks at your door looking for work is trying to scam you, but there are some who are out to make a quick buck. And if you can’t tell between them, avoid them all.
Brenda Wilson is a widow in Bristol who lives with her disabled son, and was a victim of rogue traders. After agreeing to pay three men £40 to cut her grass, trim a hedge and fix a fence they refused to leave after finishing the job. Instead they demanded a whopping £1,100 from Brenda.
When Brenda told them she didn’t have that much cash, shockingly, one of the men, Patrick Connors, frogmarched her to the bank to force her to withdraw the cash. “I said I didn’t have that much,” recalls Brenda, “I said I would have to go to the bank on the bus. I was trying to get rid of him. I was hoping they’d go but he said ‘we’ll take you in the van'”.
Brenda’s son raised the alarm by calling relatives, and the police were soon on the scene to arrest Connors and the other two men. Thankfully Brenda was unharmed after her ordeal.
While Brenda’s may be an extreme case, rogue trading comes in other forms. One man from Birmingham paid £9000 to men who told him he needed a new roof when he didn’t. Sandwell Trading Standards and West Midlands Police investigated and exposed the roofers as conmen who had scammed victims across the county out of thousands of pounds. The two men were sent to prison for two to five years.
A more common scam is sending letters to people telling them they have won a prize or the lottery. Letters usually ask victims to send a fee to receive it, as one unlucky target was told, “All I need to do is send them some money to cover the administration fee and they will transfer the cash into my bank account.” Don’t fall for it. Ignore the letters as the scammer will never send you your “prize” and you’ll never see your “administration fee” again.
Another common scam is the work from home scheme. The ad says for stuffing envelopes, you’ll be paid £50 for every 100 envelopes filled. All you’re asked to do is send £20 off for a starter pack – don’t.
JUST SAY NO
Rogue trading comes in many different forms. In all cases the best advice is to say no, as you could end up losing serious amounts of cash unless you’re really sure who you’re dealing with.
Remember, your average businessman won’t be knocking on doors looking for customers. Those that are, should be avoided. They’ll probably say they were just driving by and noticed you house or garden needs work. There are plenty of honest workmen out there who can do a good job for a low price so don’t take the risk. Let your fingers do the walking and find a decent firm online or in the phone book.
TOP TIPS FOR DEALING WITH ROGUE TRADERS
- Don’t believe everything you read. Flashy flyers or cards in shop windows don’t necessarily mean trustworthy traders. Always get a registered business address and a landline phone number.
- If you need work done, get a friend or neighbour to recommend someone.
- Don’t hand over cash, and never pay in advance – try to pay by bank transfer if possible. Only hand over credit card details to a registered business you’re sure you can trust.
- Who will do the work? While you may trust the salesperson, you won’t necessarily trust the workmen.
- If you feel at all pressured, walk away and don’t buy on impulse. Always think things over. If in doubt, shut the door.
- Never go for the first tradesman you meet. Always get more than one quote for a job.
- Look for the government’s Trust Mark scheme, as this tells you the trader’s been checked out already.
- If in doubt contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline.