Trading Standards officers have been given a £1.8 million cash boost to help step up their war against cold-calling conmen who prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) money will finance three regional ‘Scambusters’ projects, where specialist teams target unscrupulous doorstep traders.
Vulnerable consumers are regularly ripped off by home maintenance criminals, often being bullied into paying inflated priced for unnecessary work and sometimes intimidated if they refuse to pay.
In some cases, that may not be the last they see of the conmen: Having paid up once, they can find themselves repeatedly targeted in the future.
Vulnerable at risk
Two teams have already been set up in the Midlands and the North East.
The third Scambusters team, covering the 61 local authorities in London and the South East, started work in September and will be officially launched this week as part of National Consumer Week.
The new team is already investigating the case of an elderly retired civil servant in London who paid £82,000 for work on the roof of his home only to discover the traders had done nothing whatsoever.
Project Manager Steve Playle said : ‘The aim of the Scambusters Team is to help existing Trading Standards Services by dealing with unscrupulous criminal cold-calling traders who move across boundaries, causing misery to their victims.
‘These traders are often difficult to trace but my new team will have dedicated time and resources to follow these investigations through.’
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, today welcomed the government’s cash support for Scambusters.
He said: ‘Rogues who want to fleece and scam UK consumers should know that we are after them.’