Cheshire East Council’s trading standards officers and Cheshire Constabulary are warning residents to beware of scams after a series of incidents in the Crewe area.
A woman has called on elderly residents claiming to be a LifeLine alarms repairer. But once inside their homes she stole personal items.
The offender is white, aged mid-30s to early 40s, with slim to proportionate build and dark shoulder-length hair. She was smartly dressed and wore a lanyard with a fake identification badge.
DC Simon Gidman from Crewe CID said: “An investigation in relation to all three incidents has now been launched and we are keen to hear from anyone who may be able to assist with our enquiries.
“We would also like to remind all residents who use LifeLine equipment that the company will not attend your address without making a prior appointment.”
Anyone with any information which could assist with enquiries is urged to contact the police on 101 quoting incident CC15162466, alternatively information can be passed on anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
In an unrelated incident, two men in a white van charged an 86-year-old householder £440 for lopping some branches off a tree.
Trading standards officers are advising residents not to purchase goods or services from cold callers either knocking at the door or via an unsolicited phone call.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cheshire East’s Cabinet member for communities, said: “Our trading standards officers keep track of scams and we are working with Cheshire police to protect the public.
“Forewarned is forearmed, and we hope this timely and comprehensive summary of what scammers are up to will help residents to stay one step ahead.”
Some traders who call at your door can be honest and genuine. However, some are not and can be extremely persuasive. Examples of bad practices associated with cold calling and doorstep selling include pressure selling, unfair contracts, overpriced or substandard home maintenance or improvements, phoney consumer surveys and bogus charity collections.
Services frequently offered through cold calling are home improvements and repairs, security systems, mobility aids, gardening services, power washing, tarmac and driveway repairs et cetera.
Doorstep sales people may pressure you to agree for work to be done or to conclude a sale. Scammers often:
■Make you feel grateful, committed or that you have lots in common with them;
■Create a sense of urgency – the offer is for ‘one day only’;
■Sell a ‘sob story’ or say that their livelihood is in danger.
Rogue doorstep sellers will usually insist on starting the work the same day and will often ask for cash up front. They may offer to take you to the bank or building society so you can get the money out. These are some of the phrases they may use:
■‘We are only in the area today’;
■‘We were doing a job in the area and we have some materials left over’;
■‘I noticed you've got a few loose tiles on your roof’;
■‘There have been a lot of burglaries in the area recently’;
■‘This cut-price special offer is only available if you sign today’;
■‘If you pay by cash we will give you a discount’;
■‘If you don't have work done it could cause further damage’.
Cheshire East Trading Standards advises:
■Find some time to warn residents who you feel may be especially vulnerable to this type of approach;
■If you ‘feel concerned’ about anyone behaving suspiciously, especially where a vulnerable neighbour may be involved, call trading standards via the Citizens’ Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4040506 or Cheshire police to report your concerns. In a non-emergency call 101 and in an emergency 999;
■Write down a description of any vehicles or suspicious people. A vehicle registration and description is especially helpful;
■If you do require any home maintenance or gardening work contact the Cheshire East Trading Standards-run ‘buy with confidence’ on 0300 123 5500 or visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk;
■Register with the telephone preference service to cut down on unsolicited sales or marketing calls, contact them on 0845 070 0707 or visit www.tpsonline.org.uk;
■Reduce unwanted calls through recent technological advances in call blocking devices;
■For any overpayments or re-banding of Council Tax, residents can get an assessment done free with the Valuation Office Agency by contacting them on 03000 501 501 or visit www.voa.gov.uk;
■Cybercriminals behind the ‘Microsoft technical support’ unsolicited calls often use publicly-available phone directories so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you're using. Once they've gained your trust, they might ask for your user name and password or ask you to go to a website to install software that will let them access your computer to fix it. Once you do this, your computer and your personal information is vulnerable. Do not trust unsolicited calls. Do not provide any personal information;
■Cheshire East Council’s Trading Standards can provide a ‘super sign’ that tells cold callers to leave. Ring the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 to obtain yours.