Cork gardaí warn of bogus door-to-door traders

Bogus traders claiming to be door-to-door traders, repair people, or contractors carry out very little work and charge exorbitant amounts of money for their services.
Cork gardaí warn of bogus door-to-door traders

WITH anecdotal reports on social media of bogus traders doing the rounds, Cork’s community gardaí are offering some sound advice and a helping hand. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

WITH anecdotal reports on social media of bogus traders doing the rounds, Cork’s community gardaí are offering some sound advice and a helping hand.

“We don’t want to stand in the way of legitimate tradespeople trying to make a living, so what we do is we give you a card that you can give to people calling to the door,” Sergeant Mick O’Connell told The Echo.

“We recommend that you use a door limiter or a chain on your door, and when someone calls offering a service, put the chain on so they can’t get into your home, don’t get into a conversation with them, just hand them the card and ask them to fill out their name and details, and we will check them out for you.”

The card is bright yellow and has the Garda emblem on it, and is available in any garda station or from your local community garda.

Sgt O’Connell, who is the sergeant in charge of community policing in Cork City, said legitimate businesses and tradespeople will have no trouble giving their details.

“If they’re legitimate, we’ll say to you: ‘Yeah, they’re fine, they’re a legitimate company, they’re a legitimate tradesperson, work away, you can drive on with those people’.

“Legitimate tradespeople won’t mind giving you their details, and they won’t mind waiting a few days to provide a service if they’re above board,” he said.

It’s worth remembering too that having an online presence is no more a guarantee of legitimacy than having a mobile phone number. It is child’s play to set up a Facebook page and to populate it with glowing testimonials. As usual, few things beat word-of-mouth, so, if looking for a tradesperson, where possible at all, talk to family, friends, or neighbours and ask if they know someone who is reliable.

A common trick, however, is to subvert that reliance on word-of-mouth, with some bogus traders using knowledge of a neighbour’s name to trick people — “I just did a job for Mrs McGrath down the road, and she suggested I call to you” — so always be wary of unsolicited callers.

Bogus traders claiming to be door-to-door traders, repair people, or contractors carry out very little work and charge exorbitant amounts of money for their services.

They will usually call to the home of a victim identified by them beforehand, often the home of an older or a vulnerable person living alone. According to the An Garda Síochána website, this information is usually gleaned by surveillance of their target or by intelligence gathered locally, and a person who has previously been taken advantage of is often targeted again.

Bogus traders often call to the door on the pretext of being professional roofers, guttering experts, painters or other tradespeople, and can convince their victim that repairs need to be carried out.

“They will offer their services on the understanding that they are competent and inexpensive,” the garda website says. 

“They will then usually go to the roof or attic of the house identified and start hammering, drilling, painting etc, to give the appearance of working.

“On completing the ‘work’, invariably in a short period, they then demand payment by cash, often using threatening and intimidating tactics. They may even drive the victim to the bank to collect money.”

Sgt Mick O’Connell concurs: “They have been known to actually go up into the attic, come down with a wet cloth and say ‘You’ve got a leak in the roof’ and then totally take advantage of people.”

"Bogus trader" cards are available in any garda station or from your local community garda.
"Bogus trader" cards are available in any garda station or from your local community garda.

Sometimes bogus traders will finesse their scams, either before the fact, or afterwards. With what are called “deposit scams”, when criminals are satisfied that they have hoodwinked their intended victim into engaging them for work, they will demand a deposit to purchase materials. Having secured the deposit they then vanish, never to return.

Another strategy sometimes involves different members of the same gang returning after they have ripped off their victim, posing as VAT or Revenue officials, and demanding further payments.

Once they have gained access to your home, some bogus traders decide to see what is of value to steal or to buy well below the market value.

This could be furniture, paintings, or other valuables.

They can use subtle and intimidating tactics into forcing the victim to ‘sell’ to them what they want. Some then coerce their victim into signing receipts for the sale of the article secured by them.

“We’ve had people being walked down to the post office by bogus traders to get out cash to pay them exorbitant rates for services often half-done or not done at all,” said Sgt Mick O’Connell.

“Bogus traders make big money by preying on vulnerable people, and they’re going seven days a week. We always say to people: ‘Don’t get into a conversation, get their names and contact details, and we’ll check them out for you’.”

What to do if someone calls to your dooroffering their services

Avoid getting into a conversation. Ask for a sales brochure or other documentation that you can subsequently verify with your local Garda station. This should have a contact telephone number, address, and a Vat-registered number;

If you are satisfied that the company or individual is credible and you still think their employment is necessary, ask for an itemised written quotation for the services being offered and the names of persons and locations where they have previously worked successfully;

Never solely rely on the accuracy of the information being proffered. Verify the information yourself, or check with your local community garda or garda station;

Always seek comparable estimates for any services offered from other established reputable companies;

Never engage a person who insists on cash payment for services offered. Even when employing a reputable company, always use a method of payment that is traceable;

Never leave strangers, even bona fide workers, unsupervised in your home;

Ask at your local garda station about ‘bogus caller cards’. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

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