Newham

Council warns against rogue builders conning the vulnerable out of thousands

7 January 2019 in Community safety
Newham Trading Standards has issued an urgent warning about rogue builders targeting the elderly in the borough.
In one recent case – which was thwarted by a bank and trading standards – a woman in her 70’s almost lost £40,000 after employing a rogue builder to clear her gutters.

The woman had responded to a leaflet drop by a builder. The rogue befriended the lady, who lives alone and soon persuaded her that “additional” work was required. 

The victim then signed a contract for £23,000 and handed over a cheque to pay for this work upfront. 

The trader then took an extra £3k in cash before giving the victim a lift to the bank in Stratford to withdraw £16k in cash.

Bank staff were suspicious about the payment and attempts to withdraw extra cash. Newham Trading Standards and the police were alerted, the cheque was cancelled and a man was arrested at the bank. Enquiries into the case are continuing.

Sadly the case is far from a one-off. Since October 2017 Newham Trading Standards have investigated 18 incidents of suspected fraud by builders. In six cases, the fraud was identified in time to intervene – and the victims were spared a total loss of £104,000. In the other 12 cases, the money was lost and the builders escaped.

Newham trading standards officers are appealing to all residents to watch out for each other, especially older neighbours. 
  • ​Be alert if elderly neighbours are suddenly having a lot of work done to their property 
  • If you are suspicious, try to check up on the company – have they left paperwork with the home owner, do they have a company name displayed on vehicles visiting the property?
  • Have you noticed tradesmen giving your neighbour lifts in a vehicle?
  • Have you actually seen any work going on?
Councillor James Beckles, cabinet member for crime and community safety said: “These criminals are despicable, targeting as they do some of the most vulnerable in our community. I would urge all residents to be alert to the fact these people are out there and trying to con mainly older people, out of huge sums of money, which they can ill afford to lose.

“Please be a good neighbour, watch out for the tell-tale signs, and if in doubt contact trading standards, and let’s send these criminals a clear message Newham will not tolerate this."

If you have any concerns speak to your neighbour, or you can contact Newham trading standards on 0203 373 9937.