West Yorkshire Trading Standards launch crackdown on doorstep fraudsters

Rogue doorstep fish sellers in Bradford are targeting vulnerable elderly people, trading standards chiefs warned today.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards are investigating complaints about fish sellers in the city selling pensioners – including a 93-year-old dementia sufferer – a small sample, only to return the following day with hundreds of pounds of fish they insist they have agreed to buy.

Now trading standards officers have launched a crackdown on doorstep criminals and fraudsters who prey on the district’s vulnerable pensioners, fleecing them out of thousands of pounds.

Some of the other cases highlighted across West Yorkshire include one pensioner who signed a nine-year credit agreement for a hearing aid, while another elderly resident received a phenomenal 30,000 scam letters and forked out £50,000.

Now West Yorkshire Trading Standards has created a project, SAFER – Scams and Frauds Education for Residents – which is aimed at stamping out fraudsters conning the elderly by educating pensioners and giving them the knowledge and skills to avoid falling victim to rogue traders, scammers and fraudsters.

In 2010, West Yorkshire Trading Standards received more than 1,000 complaints about scams such as a fake lottery, doorstep crime, investment cons and miracle health cures.

Other cases include a 95-year-old conned into buying a £3,000 mattress just three months after being conned into buying an identical product, and rogue traders calling every two hours for two days until elderly residents paid more than £60,000 for unnecessary household repairs.

A Trading Standards spokesman said: “The fish complaint may in itself seem innocuous, but their tactics are to target elderly/vulnerable adults, sell them what they think is a small sample, only to return the following day with hundreds of pounds of fish which they insist the consumer has agreed to buy.

“Nationally hundreds of thousands of older adults are lonely, isolated and cut off from the mainstream, making them more vulnerable to scammers and fraudsters.

“This project will work with 6,000 older people and will create 200 Community Champions who will become the eyes and ears of the community for the future.

“It will help older communities have an increased knowledge, understanding and confidence in dealing with cold calling, scams, frauds and the hazards of doing business on the doorstep.”

There will also be a debt advice worker as part of the project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, who will be working closely with those who have fallen victim to scams and need debt and welfare/benefit advice.

Police, social care, voluntary agencies and fire service staff who work on a daily basis with older people will also get training on what to look out for.

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