Warning to residents as heatwave brings out scam gardeners

Tuesday 7th August 2018 22:53 BST

Cornwall’s hot sunny weather this summer has sparked an increase in doorstep scams involving garden or outside maintenance.

Now Cornwall Council Trading Standards is urging residents to be vigilant after a surge in reported incidents over the past two weeks, especially at park home sites.

Officers say different scams have featured gardening and tree surgery work targeted for unnecessary and over-priced repairs.

A Trading Standards spokesperson said: “In one recent case, the cold caller started work clearing grass clippings before getting any agreement from the home owner to do it. When refused payment for the work they started to rummage around in a workshop, attempting to take tools and other items as payment.

“In another case, cold callers have undertaken work to replace support jacks underneath park home properties, preying on resident’s fears about the condition of supports underneath their homes. Although some work was carried out, it appears to have been massively over-priced and unnecessary.”

In the past couple of weeks there have been nine separate reported complaints from residents in Helston, Redruth, St Columb, Bodmin and St Columb.

Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team works in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police to investigate these issues, and where possible, bring offenders before the courts.

In order to help communities avoid rogues, the team operates the ‘Trading Standards approved’ Buy With Confidence Scheme; offering a directory of tradespeople who have been vetted to ensure  they are reputable and trustworthy businesses.

Cabinet portfolio holder for Public Protection Sue James said: “Doorstep scams take place when someone comes to your door with the aim of scamming you out of your money or trying to gain access to your property.

“Scams can happen at any time of the year, but we have noticed an increase in scams relating to home and garden maintenance, possibly linked to the beautiful weather we are experiencing and people wanting to spend time outdoors.

“While the majority of tradespeople and officials are legitimate, it’s wise to be on your guard when you answer your door. Doorstep scammers can be persuasive or pushy but also polite or friendly, and it can be easy to fall victim. It’s especially important to be vigilant and aware if you live on your own.

“Many of the recent reports we’ve received have been opportunistic – they’ve seen someone out working in the garden and have been pushy in getting them agree to pay for services.

“The criminals generally focus on the elderly and vulnerable, and are very good at spotting their targets. We all need to be vigilant, and look out for our friends and neighbours. Just because someone presents a business card with some local telephone numbers on it, does not mean it’s a genuine business.”

Residents are asked to report concerns to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06; alternatively, If you see a suspected rogue trader actively working on a property in your area, you can report it to the police on 101.

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