Rogue traders go home with empty pockets

Doorstep crime is intrusive and is largely aimed at the more vulnerable in our society. In an effort to protect residents from this type of crime in Merton, the council has teamed up with banks across the borough to prevent customers falling prey to rogue traders. My Merton talks to the council’s trading standards team to find out more.

The council’s trading standards team visited all the banks in Merton to highlight the problem of rogue traders pushing residents into withdrawing large sums of money from the bank and then handing it over to them. Trading standards officers have asked banking staff to be on the lookout for people wanting to take out unusually large amounts of money, and to call the council if they suspect their customer could be a victim of these rogue traders.

John Hillarby, who heads up the council’s team of dedicated officers said: “Rogue traders and doorstep crime is a priority for the trading standards team.

“We received a call from a local bank whose staff were concerned that an elderly customer was trying to withdraw almost £5,000 to pay for a roofer. The bank could already see the customer had taken out £1,500 the previous week to pay a roofer. Officers on my team spoke to the customer who said that a rogue trader had cold-called them to say that they had conducted a survey on their neighbour’s roof and noticed their roof also needed repairing. In fact, no surveys had been carried out on any property in the area.

Over the following weeks the rogue trader called the resident at least five times and tried pressurising them into agreeing to have the roof repaired. The resident finally handed over £1,500 in cash with no work being carried out.

Instead the rogue trader called again saying that he needed to hire a machine for the work, requiring a further £4,800 as a deposit. We got to the resident just in time and advised them not to pay the money. We continued to keep an eye on the property and called the resident every week to check the rogue trader had not returned.”

John continues: “We’re one of the safest London boroughs and we want to keep it that way. Our work with the banks, police and with businesses is one way in which we look out for our residents, particularly the vulnerable or elderly, and keep them safe.”

This is one of a number of stories about, more often than not, older residents being approached by rogue traders and asked to hand over cash. The high street banks have helped the council with spotting potential rogue traders and together they have ensured that the rogue trader goes home with empty pockets.

If you suspect somebody to be a victim of doorstep crime, call Merton’s trading standards team on 020 8545 4018.

For more My Merton stories, visit the My Merton webpage.