Working in unison, the council’s trading standards team and a town-centre bank prevented an elderly resident losing thousands of pounds to heartless conmen.
The relationship established between the team and banks borough-wide has seen a number of scams either blocked at source or stopped from escalating.
The latest success came about when a 68-year-old Thornton Heath man went to the Whitgift Shopping Centre branch of NatWest to make a bank transfer of £4,800.
He had been cold-called that morning by a man who told him that there was damp in the party wall of his flat. The caller said the damp required the immediate attention of a pair of dehumidifiers. The deposit required for the dehumidifiers, he continued, was £4,800. Assuring the resident that the deposit would be refunded, he told him to go to the bank to arrange the transfer of that sum.
At the bank, the resident mentioned his doubts to the cashier, who promptly reported the matter to trading standards. An officer explained to the resident that the method was a much-used scam that sees its perpetrator create a sense of urgency to pressure the victim into paying immediately, before realisation of what was going on. He was told not to pay any money.
Officers reported the matter to the police, who visited the resident at his home. While they were there, the conman telephoned but hung up when the police took over the phone call.
Later that day, the scammer again phoned, claiming to be the police. The trading standards officer had warned him that this was likely to be the next move, so the resident hung up.
Jo Negrini, the council’s executive director, place, said: “It’s cases like this that highlight the value of the groundwork put in by our trading standards team.
“Thanks to their diligence, along with the would-be victim’s presence of mind and the cooperation of the bank staff, another scam has been stopped in its tracks, sparing an innocent resident the heartbreak of being conned and the loss of a substantial sum from his life savings.
“It’s always worth reiterating that nobody should ever entertain the approach of a cold caller, be it in person, over the phone or by electronic means. If work needs doing, or a service performed, find a reputable tradesman or follow the recommendation of friends or family – and always get at least three quotes for any work.”
If you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or by calling 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
For more information, visit Citizens Advice Consumer Service at www.adviceguide.org.uk or contact Croydon’s trading standards team on 020 8407 1311.