20 February 2014

Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service is warning people to be extra vigilant after a resident was duped into handing over thousands of pounds to doorstep criminals claiming to be trading standards officers.

About the scam

The victim, who cannot be named but lives in the Towcester area, was told by the so-called trading standards officers that they had caught the men who had conned him out of thousands of pounds previously, and that they had a cheque for him for £24,000.

They then said that they had realised that he was only due £18,000 so if he gave them £6,000 in cash they would hand the cheque over. The victim went to his bank and withdrew the cash and handed it over to the rogue traders who then 'noticed' that their cheque wasn’t signed and told the victim that they would have to return at a later date – but this never happened.

In this particular case, although a great deal of money has already been handed over, the victim was suspicious and so contacted the genuine trading standards service. As a result, officers from trading standards and Northamptonshire Police have been able to intervene to prevent the situation from escalating. Further investigations are ongoing.

How to stay safe from rogue traders

Cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said “Our trading standards officers are a trusted team of people who dedicate themselves to protecting Northamptonshire consumers and tackling scams and other criminality.

“This makes it particularly sickening to hear that doorstep criminals are using the good name of our officers to exploit the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“We are reminding people not to deal with unexpected cold callers offering any kind of service or trying to sell you something on your doorstep. Genuine trading standards officers would never act like this and would never ask residents to hand over money as part of an investigation.

“If anyone does turn up at your door claiming to be a council officer, make sure you check their ID and also call our customer service centre on 0300 126 1000 to check if they are genuine. A council officer will never mind waiting while you do this and do not let anyone inside your home until you are completely satisfied they are who they say they are.

“If you feel you are in danger or the caller is threatening or aggressive, call 999.

“In so many cases these are criminals who are looking to take advantage of the most vulnerable people in our communities which is why we are calling on friends, relatives, neighbours and carers to be particularly on their guard to help keep them safe.

"Our Doorstep crime Action Network (DAN) brings together all members of our community and is committed to helping the people we care for from falling victim to doorstep crime. The dedicated doorstep crime hotline number is 0345 23 07 702 but if a crime is in progress dial 999. Our simple message is - if you’re not sure don’t open the door”.

For advice or information about this or any other doorstep crime, people can contact trading standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06.

Anyone needing work to be carried out around the home or garden can use the trading standards approved trader scheme called Buy With Confidence. This is the only scheme where businesses are trading standards approved.

In partnership with Northamptonshire Police, trading standards is also able to provide No Cold Calling stickers. Please call 0300 126 1000 to request a sticker.