The dangers of repeat scamming are being highlighted by Croydon Council’s trading standards team after a vulnerable resident lost £60,000 to heartless conmen.
The case has resurfaced following a return visit from somebody claiming to be a trading standards officer (TSO) and asking for yet more money.
Matters first came to the team’s attention in 2014 when a series of cons against the 68-year-old woman came to light.
Over a long period of time, “builders” had extracted more than £40,000 from the woman for works that they said they had done, or that needed to be done, to her Thornton Heath home.
Following the intervention of the trading standards team, the scams ceased but the money was never recovered.
Three months further on, she received a phone call from somebody claiming to be a TSO who told her that the scammers had been caught and that she could now carry on with the required building work. The caller told her that a legitimate builder would call at her home to collect upfront payment in order that the work could be resumed.
Believing the call to be genuine, the woman handed over £20,000 when a man claiming to be the builder arrived at her home.
As with the previous sums, that money was never seen again and no traceable lead to the scammers was established.
Officers repeated earlier words of advice to the woman, pointing out that there was a distinct possibility of her being targeted again at some point in the future, and that she should be cautious if further approached.
That warning was well-founded as, in the past week, she has received another visit to her home from a man claiming to be a TSO.
Remembering the advice received from the council’s officers, she challenged him, asking for identification and telling him that she would call the council for confirmation. He quickly left, with no further money changing hands.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“This is a case that vividly illustrates how organised and cunning today’s con artists are.
“It’s known that information regarding victims of previous scams is shared between different scamming gangs, allowing repeat visits – just like this one – from people that the victim hasn’t previously seen, and so may not have their suspicions aroused.
“In this case, fortunately, her previous experience, allied to the good work of our TSOs, raised her defences and she did exactly the right thing in asking to see identification.
“Our advice in these situations is to never do business with cold callers, whether they’re on the phone, at your front door or have contacted you by post.
“Always ask for identification, check it and then ask them to come back when somebody else is with you; and never accept their word if they claim work needs to be carried out urgently – get at least three quotes from reputable companies.”