New warnings have recently been issued following a new spate of blocked drain scammers targeting the elderly. But what exactly is the scam, and what should we look for?
Scammers are persistent, that’s nothing new. And the scams are nothing new either – so just when you thought you’d heard the last of a con, it has a nasty habit of popping up somewhere else. The scam in question this time revolves around blocked drains, and it wasn’t that long ago that press in the East Grinstead area were reporting that a number of elderly residents had been targeted by fraudsters.
Innocent and vulnerable members of different communities across the South East have been targeted so it’s important to be aware of this scam, and what you can do to either not fall victim to it, or assist those who may have been targeted.
What is the Scam?
The fraudsters plan has been to pose as neighbours, or legitimate sounding drainage experts/companies. They will commonly knock and say they are clearing drains in the area or investigating the source of a supposed drainage issue, and will then say the problem stems from your property.
They try and scam the residents out of money, usually saying they are responsible for repairs, it will cost a lot of money, and if they don’t get it done they will be liable for the costs of rectifying the problems it will cause the neighbourhood.
The scammers have demanded deposits upfront, even driving some people to the bank to withdraw money, or providing a ‘head office number’ which is another scammer on the end of the line arranging a supposed work schedule – all done to help make the scam sound more legitimate – it’s NOT!
How to Protect Yourself
If you suspect a scam is doing the rounds, then one of the best things you can do is make it viral – post warnings on social media, in particular local community groups, inform the police, local authorities, and any companies that the scammers may be posing as, and spread the word to friends, family and neighbours in the area. Additional things you can do to protect yourself against fraud include:
- Be aware that the police and your bank will never call you asking for your PIN number, arrange to collect money or your bank card, or ask you to collect money, if anyone requests these things – it’s a scam.
- In the same vein, don’t give out your personal details to someone you don’t know – the same goes for bank cards or money.
- If you get a suspect telephone call or knock at the door hang up or don’t answer/close the door on them.
- Register with the telephone and mail preference services to help reduce the number of unwanted calls and mail you receive.
- If you do receive phone calls and you’re asked to call back, always hang up and wait 5 minutes or longer or use a mobile phone. Fraudsters could still be on the line and making money from the call, or asking you to ring premium rate numbers.
- Don’t give in to pressure – if you do receive bogus cold call visits or phone calls, refuse to pay up and then receive more phone calls from scammers posing as neighbours or the local council, continue to refuse and report the matter.
- Source no cold calling and anti-fraud sticker packs and information from trading standards – these will remind you what to do in cases of fraud/suspected fraud and will also make your position clear to any visitors.
- We advise that you never give business to random cold callers, and always use registered local businesses.
Where to Go for Help
If you have been a victim of a bogus drainage scam or suspect this scam has appeared in your area there are a number of things you can do to seek help.
- Report the scam/suspected fraud to your local trading standards office and police department so they can investigate or provide further advice.
- Visit Action Fraud online or ring them on 0300 123 2040 – this is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. The service can provide advice and resources on different types of fraud and fraud prevention. There is also a fraud reporting service, which passes information on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
- Citizens Advice are also a great source of information if you suspect fraud, especially if you want to question the legitimacy of any contracts you’ve been asked to sign.
As a general rule – never give money to people who come knocking at your door. Remind elderly friends, neighbours and reletives of this.
Fraser Ruthven is the Marketing Associate for London Drainage Facilities, one of London’s leading drainage companies. London Drainage provides a wide range of drainage diagnostic and repair services in and around London.