Spring time con men target elderly

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HOUSE-PROUD pensioners unable to repair their homes after harsh winter weather are at risk of being scammed by bogus tradesmen, experts have warned.

With this Easter being the coldest on record and buildings battered by poor weather conditions, scammers are promising a quick fix for vulnerable people looking to fix any damages.

Slapdash service is becoming a common springtime occurrence according to Gary Ritchie, Assistant Director of the Scottish Business Crime Centre (SBCC).

Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith
Elderly residents are the most vulnerable targets experts warn. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith

 

He said: “While we have long been plagued by bogus callers trying to get entry into houses, many criminals are now using the change of seasons from winter to spring as a ploy for their scams.”

The warning comes as part of SBCC’s latest campaign to protect over-60s people from fake tradesmen.

Ritchie said “Older people in particular are easily influenced by suggestions that their property has been damaged by winter weather; or simply fall for smooth-talking scammers who sell them the concept of sprucing up their house in spring by having unnecessary repairs or refurbishment work carried out.”

Exact figures on how many people have been affected are unavailable as victims are often left too humiliated and frightened to report any wrong doing.

But a study carried out by Citizens Advice Scotland found 421 cases of cold callers attempting to do work on property were reported to their Consumer Helpline between April and November 2012.

“Older people who try to complain or refuse to pay are threatened with violence or treated with abuse. In some cases, they have been made to walk to cash machines to make withdrawals,” Mr Ritchie said.

400 of the cases reported involved general home maintenance and improvement as well as double glazing and insulation to keep houses warm in the colder months.

40% of cases involved complaints of shoddy service which totalled to around £700,000 in charges to householders.

Sham callers often pose as police officers, council officials or gas, electrical or water company representatives in order to gain access to the home.

Action is being taken by the SBCC in order to combat further swindling by informing, providing guidance and support in order to protect the vulnerable.

Ritchie added, “We are working with a number of partner agencies to raise awareness and we want older people and their families to be on alert at all times to know what to do when they receive an unsolicited call at their home.”

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