A pensioner was saved from handing over £2,500 to a heartless rogue by the combined forces of the council’s trading standards team, local bank staff and the police.
The scam was prevented last week when a 76-year-old Addiscombe resident attempted to withdraw the sum from his account at his local branch of NatWest.
Long-standing liaison work between trading standards officers (TSOs) and staff of borough banks and building societies prompted the cashier to be suspicious of the unusual request for such a large sum from the account of a possibly vulnerable customer.
TSOs and police were called to the branch to advise the resident. They learned that a caller had knocked on the man’s door to tell him that water pipes serving his property were broken and in urgent need of repair.
He claimed that a compressor would be needed to carry out the work, and that he would need £2,500 from the resident for the hire charge. If the equipment was not hired, the water would have to be cut off and not reconnected for a number of days. He also falsely claimed to have an unspecified connection with Croydon Council.
On attempting to withdraw the requested cash, the resident was persuaded that the man’s claims were false, and that handing over the money would see him robbed of part of his life savings.
It transpired that the resident was having legitimate gas main work carried out at his property at the time, and it is felt that the criminal, who has no links to the gas company, used this genuine work as an opportunity to target the resident and attempt the fraud.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“This case shows the real value of the ‘back office’ work that’s carried out by our trading standards team.
“This is not the first instance of a resident being spared the pain and hardship of losing a large sum of money thanks to the relationship built up by our officers with staff of banks and building societies across the borough.
“That aside, it’s once again worth reiterating that householders should never agree to work suggested by, nor hand over money to, cold callers who turn up unannounced at their home. Always get at least three independent quotes from reputable companies before agreeing to any work being undertaken.”