Canny resident thwarts bogus trading standards officer

 

A conman claiming to be a council official is known to be operating in the borough and trying to convince residents to part with thousands of pounds for what he claims are essential drain-clearance works.

The latest example of the scam, being investigated by Croydon’s trading standards department, was reported by a Thornton Heath resident who was sufficiently wary not to hand over the asked-for cash.

The attempted scam began when the resident was door-knocked and told that the caller had links with Bromley’s trading standards team. The caller said that there was a blockage in a sewage pipe that required attention. He told the resident that the work would cost him nothing, and that he should expect a phone call to arrange a time for the work to be done.

A week later he received the phone call and was told that it would be necessary to inspect the pipe with specialist camera kit. When told that he would have to pay a fully refundable deposit of £4,500 for the hire of the kit, he informed the caller that he had no intention of handing over any money.

Two days later, a man called Gary, claiming to be from a drain-cleaning contractor, called to say that the work needed doing, and quoted a fee of £450. When the householder refused, Gary said that, on reflection, he could do the job for £200, but was told that the resident wanted a letter from Croydon Council outlining the problems.

In a later phone call, Gary told the resident that payment was due for the work that had been carried out. When the resident pointed out that no work had been done, he was given a telephone number, supposedly of the chief officer of Bromley Council.

When the resident called the number, he spoke to a man called Rob McClusky, who said that he was aware of the scam, and that the resident should go along with the transfer of money as officers would be waiting outside to catch the crooks red-handed. The householder said that he could not get the money. The phone calls have continued but the householder is ignoring them.

Residents should be aware that council officers never ask for money, and any resident who has previously been ripped off in their home or has recently had building repairs carried out, needs to be particularly cautious.

Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice

“This is doorstep crime – and extremely serious. Posing as a trusted official in order to con money out of somebody makes it even more offensive.

“Residents should always be cautious of cold callers offering any kind of service, and not do business on the doorstep.

“Criminals look to take advantage of trusting, unsuspecting people and that’s why I’m once again asking that everybody stay vigilant and report any suspicions of rogue traders or cold callers.

“It’s known that these criminals share information with each other; for that reason, I’d urge people to be particularly vigilant if they’ve previously been victims of doorstep crime or rogue traders.”

Anybody contacted by somebody claiming to be a council officer – in person, by telephone or letter – can check their identity by calling the local authority concerned; the number of Croydon Council’s call centre is 020 8726 6000. Residents should not use any number suggested by the caller; they should call only the council’s listed number to confirm an officer’s details.

Reputable traders – vetted and approved by independent assessors – can be found via websites such as www.trustmark.org.uk or http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk

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