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Protect your property this summer

by Alison Cornmell

It’s summer and many of you will be making the most of the sunshine in the garden.

Some may be doing some gardening or home improvements, or you may be considering hiring someone to do the work for you.

We are reminding residents to be cautious and follow our crime prevention advice to protect you and your property from theft and rogue traders.

Opportunist thieves target sheds and garages as they are often easier to access and have less security than people’s homes. Knowsley Council and Merseyside Police remind residents to ensure sheds and garages are locked when unattended. Here’s some useful crime prevention advice to help you protect your property.

Knowsley Council’s Trading Standards Team are advising residents to be on their guard as rogue traders target homes, offering building and landscaping work.

Cold caller and rogue traders commit fraud by doing unnecessary and overpriced work to a poor standard. Work may start as a simple job but then escalates as other “problems” are uncovered. Offenders often target the vulnerable or elderly and can also intimidate residents to extort money.

Rogue traders have vans, uniforms and may leaflet an area before making cold calls.  Free phone numbers divert to their mobile phones and numbers change regularly.

These scams sometimes begin on social media platforms where rogue traders will advertise for work. Householders are then asked for payment upfront, either in part or in full, before little or no work is carried out.

However, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Never agree to have work done by any cold caller regardless of what they say. No reputable trader ever approaches a customer in this way.
  • If you do answer a cold call never let them in and don’t feel pressured into making a decision on your doorstep.
  • Be aware that a phone number provided by the caller is no guarantee of legitimacy as it could be a false number to an accomplice.
  • Never pay money up front.  Always agree a final price in writing and get an invoice and receipt as proof of payment.
  • Only pay for work once it has been completed and you’re satisfied.
  • Never accept any offer to drive you to the bank to withdraw money or give them your bank details.
  • If you think your home or garden needs work, please use a recommendation from friends/neighbours or use a trader approved scheme.
  • Never put your job on social media or on internet sites – rogue traders also use these platforms.
  • Get three quotes to check if the price is competitive and if the work really needs doing – never rely on the word of a single trader.

And remember…

  • Keep an eye on people calling in the area or acting suspiciously
  • Keep an eye out for any vulnerable neighbours who may be approached by cold callers. If someone has agreed to work from a cold call and there is no paperwork, it is likely that there will be a problem.
  • Look out for vehicles without business details doing general gardening/driveway or building work.
  • Call the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 0808 223 1144 or the Police on 101 about any suspicious people, activity or vehicles, however insignificant it may seem.
  • Any contracts over £42 that are agreed in a consumer’s home are subject to 14-day cooling off rights. The homeowner must be given written information about their right to cancel, about the identity of the trader who is doing the work and the total cost of the work to be carried out. The consumer must authorise the trader in writing if the work is to start within the 14-day cooling off period. Just having a statement on a flyer or business card that there is a 14-day cooling off period is not enough.