From recent reports throughout the North Cork area it is evident that rogue traders masquerading as builders, tarmacadam/guttering contractors and general maintenance men are targeting vulnerable householders. Older and vulnerable people in particular are being targeted by doorstep tricksters.
There are a number of telltale signs people can look out for:
• The bogus caller will make the first contact.
• He/she will be very neatly dressed, believable, polite and friendly.
• If it seems a bargain and too good to miss, be extra cautious, its highly likely that it’s a scam.
• The caller may try to give you a hard luck story
• The caller may offer to buy items from you.
There are also a number of steps the householder can take to protect against bogus callers: Keep your door on the chain and look to see who is calling before opening it (door chains are now available for PVC doors – contact Mary at 025/33411 for more information).
You are entirely within your rights to have the person wait outside while you phone the organisation being represented by the caller to check their validity. Legitimate callers will understand and wait while the bogus caller will probably leave in haste.
If the caller insists they need access immediately, or before you carry out the necessary checks, call 999 immediately. If you are approached and decline, be aware that your vulnerable neighbour may be at risk. Be vigilant and please speak to Gardai.
If you do decide you want a job done, such as driveways, roofing, gutters cleaned etc., then get a number of different contractors who may be recommended to you by known and trusted sources (friends, relations, Blackwater Community Connect or neighbours).
Make sure you inspect previous work done by the contractor and take plenty of time to reach your decision and ask for their landline telephone number to let them know when you have reached your decision. Do not deal with callers to your house for cash payment.
If you feel threatened or intimidated make sure to contact the Gardai as soon as possible and try to get the registration number of their vehicle.
Evidence received from families who were conned by some of these tricksters: “I knew someone who got a very good price, demanded (threateningly to a man in his 70’s) to be paid in cash before the job was finished and could never be contacted afterwards when they didn’t finish the job.”
Another family told a story of how they were approached: “He called in with the line – ‘we did a job down the road and have some left over and we can tarmac your drive for cheap’, but they had no business details and wanted cash only.”
In a similar case, doorstep callers driving a van told a householder they had bitumen left over from a job and asked if he wanted it spread on his drive. No price was discussed and he was given the impression it was free and they just wanted to get rid of it.
He went out and when he returned the men were digging up his drive. They told him it would cost €1,400 (Community Alert manager).
Blackwater Community Connect provide a general handyman service to older people to prevent such instances happening and participants of the programme enjoy the benefit of knowing that the person working in their home is honest and fair.
Cards have been supplied to the homes of 500 older participants of the Blackwater Community Connect Programme seeking the contact details of doorstep callers offering their services.
Blackwater Community Connect may also be able to identify reputable contractors and tradespersons to carry out repairs and renovations to the homes of older and/or vulnerable people.
By remaining vigilant and keeping in contact with Community Alert representatives in your area, you may prevent other householders from becoming targets of such callers.
If a community alert/neighbourhood watch group does not operate in your area now might be the time to set about organising your own group. Grants are available for security equipment for older people, especially those with mobility problems and those who live alone, through the Department of Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs.
These can be secured through your local community alert group. For further information on setting up a community alert group or the contact details of your local group, contact Diarmuid Cronin at 086-6000752. For further details or to be included in the Blackwater Community Connect Programme do not hesitate to contact Mary Allen at 025/33411.