Stop the Cowboys: Good neighbours can thwart ‘evil’ doorstop rogues

Awareness-raising: Trading Standards Officer Chris Holden, and Community Champions Luc Sorrell and Charlie-Ann Higgs ready to help residents fight the scammers
Awareness-raising: Trading Standards Officer Chris Holden, and Community Champions Luc Sorrell and Charlie-Ann Higgs ready to help residents fight the scammers
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Good neighbours can help thwart the doorstep rogues who are scamming Buckinghamshire’s residents out of an estimated £14 million a year.

County Council Trading Standards officers say that of the almost 200 reports about doorstep rogue traders in the past year, the vast majority came from neighbours, friends and families.

And because most victims of doorstep crime never tell anyone – only one in ten incidents are ever reported – watchful neighbours and friends can play a vital role in the fight against the scammers, by raising the alarm, and helping to catch the crooks, says Trading Standards officer Chris Holden.

Chris is leading the team in a drive to find more of Buckinghamshire’s good neighbours, which is launched as part of National Consumer Week today (Monday November 3).

And their focus is on encouraging more communities to set up Neighbourhood Watch groups.

This builds on door-to-door visits to the county’s doorstep crime hotspots, during Rogue Trader Week in April, by Trading Standards, community volunteers and community police officers raising awareness, gathering intelligence, and asking residents to look out for their vulnerable neighbours.

Research shows that levels of crime can decline by up to 26% where there is an active Neighbourhood Watch group, says Chris.

And where neighbours call Trading Standards or police officers while an incident is still going on, victims can be saved thousands of pounds.

Between January 2010 and September 2012, action by Buckinghamshire Trading Standards and police stopped around £275,000 from being handed to doorstep criminals.

“We need to increase the level of reporting – preferably at least double – so that we can save more victims from parting with their money to these rogues,” said Chris.

“This is why we’re encouraging more good neighbours to get together in their communities.’

Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said: ‘We’re stronger together to beat the doorstep scammers.

“They’re evil and they prey on our more vulnerable residents, especially those who are lonely and isolated.

“They exploit people’s need for someone to talk to, not to mention their need for jobs to be done, so it’s important that we encourage more good neighbours to keep a watchful eye on them.”

In the year to June 30, 2014, known losses to victims of doorstep rogues in Buckinghamshire was around £1.5 million. As only one in ten incidents is reported, Trading Standards estimate losses around the county to be around £14m.

The average loss per victim is just over £7,000, and one victim was defrauded of almost £1m. Trading Standards officers know of one victim scammed at least 12 times before the incident was reported, and during the past year in one hot-spot 10 rogue trader incidents were reported, indicating activity at around 100 homes.

Residents wanting help to form a neighbours’ group can phone 101 and ask for the local Neighbourhood Watch office.

Information: www.tvnhwa.org.uk

FACT FILE

> One in ten doorstep scam incidents are reported, mostly by neighbours, friends or relatives.

> 72% of victims don’t tell their family about an incident.

> 94 doorstep crime incidents reported in Buckinghamshire from January to June 2014.

> Average financial loss is £7,068 per victim.

> Biggest loss to a victim was almost £1m.

> 80% of incidents reported between 9am and 6pm, when most people are at work.

> Average age of victims is 77.

> 2,845 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in Buckinghamshire.