Business

Rogue trader warning ahead of winter

Snow on houses
Image caption Rogue traders tend to operate before the winter weather sets in

Older people in the UK are facing a growing risk of being targeted by rogue traders ahead of a cold winter, a charity has warned.

A number of fraudsters are expected to go door-to-door offering home improvement services in preparation for the colder weather, Age UK said.

Doorstep canvassing is not illegal but thousands of incidents have led to complaints.

The number of gripes rose by 16% last year compared with the previous year.

Advice line Consumer Direct said there were more than 5,300 complaints in 2009 about traders offering home maintenance work on the doorstep.

Tricks

Three specific areas have been highlighted by Age UK and the Office of Fair Trading in a new awareness campaign unveiled on Monday.

They are:

  • Cavity wall insulation. The rogue traders can claim to be part of an energy-saving scheme offering discounted rates, but charge high prices for shoddy or non-existent work
  • Roof repairs. Dodgy builders can claim to have spotted urgent problems with a roof, which the elderly are unable to go up and check themselves. The work may be unnecessary
  • Driveway maintenance. Builders offer to lay the drive with "leftover" materials from another job. The rogue trader might demand payment upfront and then disappear with the money

"With last year's freezing temperatures still fresh in people's minds, we want to raise awareness of rogue doorstep traders offering services to prepare homes before bad weather sets in," said Helena Herklots of Age UK.

"Although crime against older people is less likely than other age groups, rogue doorstep traders often target those who are older or more vulnerable, so it is important to be aware of the risks."

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