People in Cornwall are being urged to guard themselves against fake officials after an elderly couple lost £900,000 in scam – involving a bogus trading standards officer.
The pensioners, who had already been fleeced for £300,000 by cowboy roofers, believed their fortunes had changed when the bogus official came calling.
However, the crook, thought to be part of the same gang, tricked them out of a further £600,000 in “up-front fees” with promises to recover the money.
Gary Andrew Booker, 55, of Surrey, was jailed for three-and-a-half years for his part in the crime, earlier in Scams Awareness Month, which runs throughout July.
Other recent cases include: An 83 year old woman who was robbed of £30,000 by bogus police officers; a woman who lost £170,000 to conmen posing as trading standards officers; and a number of elderly people who were caught out by crooks who pretended they were NHS workers.
Organisers of Scams Awareness Month, Citizens Advice and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), are citing such cases as a warning to others.
Cornwall Council Trading Standards officer Julia Groves said: “As an authority that provides a trading standards function these kind of cases concern us.
“Like any public official, our trading standards officers would never ask for money from the public, let alone a victim, to help bring a criminal to justice.”
Leon Livermore, chief executive of CTSI, said: “All too often criminals pose as charity workers, trading standards officers, government officials and even the police, to gain people’s trust.
“But if a genuine person comes to your door they will be only too happy to wait while you check their identification, or if you tell them to come back another time because you are unsure.”
The campaign is also urging people to follow a simple three-step rule to guard themselves against scams – get advice, report it, and tell others about it.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Scammers target people in all sorts of ways, including online, over the phone or even at their own front door.
“If you suspect someone is running a scam or are worried you have been a victim of a bogus offer you can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service.”
Advice to guard against doorstep callers:
- Fit and use a door security chain when you open the door.
- Check the identification of a caller by ringing their employer. Use the telephone number from your telephone book and not one they might supply.
- Do not let anyone to carry out work on your house until you get a second opinion and never agree to callers who say “we are only in the area today”.
- Never keep large sums of money in the house and keep purses out of sight, not near the door.
Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service 03454 04 05 06 who can provide advice and pass details on to trading standards.
Report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040.
Tell a friend, neighbour or relative about any scams you become aware of.
Source: Cornwall Council