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X-Ray investigates - doorstep crime

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 14:41 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Last year, 67 year old Ioan got a knock on the door which would change his life. Ioan has lived with a mental health condition for several decades. The caller appeared to know him and offered to do some work on his house. When the caller came, Ioan was at a vulnerable point, and at the time it seemed reasonable to Ioan to pay in cash.

Ioan told Rachel Treadaway-Williams "From then on they started making more and more suggestions for more and more work which they would do - the patios in the garden, rewiring the house, a new kitchen and so forth. To keep going they'd keep asking me for small amounts relatively speaking - £2,000 one day, £1,000 another, just to keep them solvent."


Ioan didn't realise it at the time, but a devastating chain of events had begun; a chain of events that would leave him feeling vulnerable and his finances in ruins. It's a story which is all-too familiar to the team at Scambusters - the highly experienced group of trading standards officers and former police workers who've been brought together to tackle doorstep crime in Wales.

Andrew Bertie from Scambusters says, "We've had offences where people have had £300,000 taken off them, and quite a few over £100,000 at a time. National statistics say it could be as little as 5% of these offences which are actually reported, that's quite alarming."

So who's likely to fall victim to this sort of crime? According to Andrew, "It's usually the most elderly and most vulnerable people in society. They are targeted, information about them and their details is passed around, they'll identify that some work needs doing - it may be as simple as a slate off a roof. The idea is to take as much money from that householder as possible and they grossly inflate the price. 66% of those who become victims in the first place are re-victimised."

The criminals who targeted Ioan, taking advantage of his confused state of mind, preyed on him for months. He says, "Looking through my accounts now, the amount of money that was taken, sometimes ridiculously large amounts, on one occasion £8,000 in the morning, £6,000 in the afternoon. Quite absurd. On one occasion they took £9,500 away in a shoe box because they didn't have anything else to carry it."

Eventually things came to a head when Ioan wanted to withdraw more money than the bank would allow. The criminals asked for £19,000 to rewire his house, which meant Ioan had to contact his financial advisor to get the money. The advisor contacted the authorities because he was concerned that Ioan had been taken advantage of.

The Scambusters team got a call from Ioan's local Trading Standards team. By then around £70,000 had been removed from his bank account in the two months leading up to that date. When they investigate doorstep crime, the Scambusters team record interviews with victims, to be used as evidence in court. One of the victims they interviewed was Beryl Davis. She was 84 years old and lived alone in the Cardiff suburb of Rhiwbina. In October 2008 she'd been targeted by a gang who offered to work on her home. Mrs Davis gave them money, and a cheque for £5,000.

In the interview which was recorded soon after the event, Mrs Davis describes what happened events. She said, "I remember something about going to Rhiwbina to get £2,000. I don't know where that cheque for £5,000 came from. I don't remember now."

As a result of some of the work Scambusters did with Cardiff Trading Standards and South Wales Police, they were able to respond and capture one of the callers returning to Mrs Davis's home address. They were arrested, appeared before court and were given a suspended sentence. Sadly, for Beryl Davis, justice had come too late. In June 2009, four months before the fraudster was sentenced, Beryl passed away in the home she loved.

Andrew Bertie says the effect on people affected by doorstep crime can be devastating. "When those victims sit down in their own home and think about what's happened to them, it does have a serious effect on their health, and in certain circumstances has led maybe, arguably, to a premature death."

According to the Police, Trading Standards and Scambusters, the message to everyone is to keep cold callers out. 'No cold call' zones are being set up right across Wales and anyone with concerns about someone coming to their home should contact the Police or Consumer Direct. It's a lesson Ioan has learnt the hard way.

He now says, "It's immoral isn't it, and it's unscrupulous, because they could see I was confused and they had no scruples about using it. It's not nice to think that human beings are so nasty."

The Scambusters team are still trying to catch the gang who targeted Ioan so mercilessly. Andrew Bertie is confident they have the evidence they need to secure a conviction if the authorities do catch up with the criminals.

If you're concerned about doorstep callers in your area and you'd like to set up a 'no cold calling zone' then contact your Trading Standards department

For more information about doorstep crime, visit the doorstepcallers website

In an emergency call 999 and for non emergency calls to Police dial 101, or you can call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 if you have any concerns about a doorstep caller in your area. 


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