‘Scams’ come in many guises and target all of us, but they are a particularly effective way of eliciting money from elderly and vulnerable people and it is this group who are usually the victims. Examples of common scams include people receiving letters or an e-mail suggesting they have won a prize or a lottery in return for a small amount of money to release the funds; people receiving a text messages or emails claiming they have been mis-sold insurance, or being ‘cold called’ by telephone and being sold over-priced and useless vitamins or medicines. Once a person ‘agrees’ they are placed on a ‘suckers list’ and their details are sold to other con-merchants to target the victim over and over again.
‘Doorstep crime’ is a term used to describe the illegal activity of rogue traders who target victims at home. It is elderly and vulnerable people who are most at risk. Criminals often use a variety of tactics to convince people that they need to carry out unnecessary household repairs or repairs to expensive goods like mobility scooters, orthopaedic beds and chairs. Many criminals prefer this method of operating as it means they do not have to ‘break in’ to people’s homes and are generally harder to detect. They are also more lucrative as the victim will pay over large sums of money – usually cash – and there is no need to ‘sell on’ stolen property.
The victim usually feels pressurised into agreeing for the work to be done and paying up. They may be threatened into paying up for additional work. These traders have no regard for consumer rights, they don’t give the proper paperwork – if any paperwork – and they don’t deal with customer complaints.
City of York trading standards received 63 complaints about doorstep crime in 2012-2013. We receive in the region of 60 complaints about doorstep crime every year. Trading Standards studies show that only 20% of these crimes are reported due to ‘fear’ of the consequences of reporting them.
Home Office studies into the impact of doorstep crime on older victims shows that their health declines faster than non-victims of a similar age. The study also found that victims of doorstep crime are 2.4 times more likely to be in residential care two years after the incident than their non-affected neighbours (Donaldson, 2003).
Implement the national Trading Standards Operating Model to ensure that intelligence about doorstep crime is shared amongst trading standards and the wider enforcement community and those we maximise funding opportunities from the National Trading Standards Board.
Continue to maximise opportunities from hosting the Yorkshire & The Humber Region Trading Standards Scambuster team who investigate offenders targeting residents across local authority boundaries. This includes using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate the assets of criminals involved in this type of crime and use payouts from the Home Office Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme to build local resilience against doorstep crime.
Improve reporting of doorstep crime incidents including engaging partner organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau to report incidents to trading standards.
City of York Council (2014) Trading Standards and Consumer Advice
Trading Standards and Consumer Advice
Government Legislation (2011) Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
City of York Council (2012) Proceeds of Crime
Proceeds of Crime
North Yorkshire Police – Analysis Unit
North Yorkshire Police
North Yorkshire Police
Donaldson, R. (2003) Experiences of older burglary victims