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Garda warning after reports of bogus tradesmen targeting householders with 'rat's nest' scam

Officers are urging locals to be on the alert for suspicious callers.

Image: Shutterstock/Carlos Aranguiz

GARDAÍ IN DUBLIN carried out additional patrols of estates in the Raheny area of the city over the weekend after receiving reports of an apparent scam involving door-to-door callers and a dead rat.

Officers are urging householders in the area to be on the alert for suspicious callers. The suspected scammers attempted to carry out the con at a number of addresses in the area, it’s believed. 

In one instance, the attempted scam took place over two days last week at an established estate in the north Dublin suburb. 

It began when a dead rat appeared in a resident’s garden last week. 

The property owner initially thought little of the rat’s sudden appearance, and disposed of it before warning neighbours about a potential rodent problem in the area.

The following day, two men called to the resident’s door and offered to cut hedges in his front garden. After initially agreeing to this, the man then let one of the bogus tradesmen examine the hedges in his back garden to see if they needed to be cut as well.

A few minutes later, the bogus tradesman claimed to the property owner that he had found a number of rats’ nests in the back garden and in a neighbouring garden.

The bogus tradesmen then offered to clear the rats’ nests from the garden using a specialist who was their ‘acquaintance’ – telling the property owner that this would cost over €2,500.

After the owner told the men that he didn’t have that money at home, the bogus tradesmen suggested to the man that he could go down to the bank or post office to withdraw it.

The householder then met up with a neighbour, and together they raised the alarm and asked gardaí to respond to the address. 

The property owner had told the men he did not want to go ahead with their offer before alerting the gardaí, and they left before officers arrived on the scene. 

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána told The Journal that officers conducted patrols in Raheny in response to a report about the alleged scam and said they were aware of “a dispute between a resident and tradespersons in the Dublin 5 area” on the day in question. 

“Gardaí advise members of the public not to open the door if you are not expecting a person to call to your home and if you do not know the person outside,” a statement said.

Barry Murphy, a coordinator of the Raheny Business Association, said similar scams had happened in the community before.

“It’s just dreadful,” he told The Journal.

“They were so clever about it. We’re a tight-knit community, so if the message gets out and somebody learns from it, hopefully they won’t fall for it either.”

Warning

Age Action described such door-to-door scams as “despicable” and said that the impact of such incidents on older people could be disproportionate to other sections of the population.

“We’ve seen and read stories previously by people who were victims of crime in their own home, who haven’t felt safe enough to stay in their own home afterwards,” said Celine Clarke, the charity’s head of Advocacy and Communications.

“It can really diminish people’s sense of themselves and their independence.”

Clarke also called on members of the public to make older people aware of confirmed scams when they happen in the community – particularly because they may not read about them on social media.

“Not everybody is online, so if you know about something that’s happening, try and think about the people who aren’t online, and give them a call, or drop them a note or a message,” she said.

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“Communities in general are great at wrapping themselves around those who need it. But it’s important that we share accurate information with them too.”

A spokesperson for pest control company Rentokil noted that although the cost of pest control services depends on a variety of factors and circumstances, a reasonable quote for the removal of rats’ nests as described would not be in the thousands of Euro.

The company added that anyone with a suspected pest control problem should contact a reputable provider.

“We would encourage anyone who encounters similar circumstances to those outlined to do their own independent research to secure a quote from a reputable pest control provider,” a statement said.

“A registered pest control provider using rodenticides must have a Pest Management Trained Professional User (PMU) Number and must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”

Garda advisory

In an advisory on how to deal with potential door-to-door scams, gardaí said that anyone who feels uncomfortable answering the door to a stranger should ask the person to leave a card and contact details and to tell them you will contact them at a later time.

“This simple action protects elderly and vulnerable people by denying a stranger entry to their home, and giving the impression that a family member will be calling to the residence later,” a spokesperson said.

“If the caller does not leave the area, immediately call a friend/neighbour or your local Garda station. Do not, under any circumstances, allow anybody entry to your home unless you know and trust them.”

Members of the public are also urged to look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours and to take note of details – such as a description of the person and their vehicle - if they suspect a bogus caller is visiting a neighbour’s home.

And, to help them avoid becoming the victim of a scam themselves, those who engage in the services of people who call to their home have also been given the following advice:

  • Tell the caller that you do not employ tradespeople ‘cold calling’ to your door. Ask for a sales brochure or other documentation that you can subsequently investigate and verify as credible. This should have a contact telephone number, known address and a VAT registered number.
  • Be particularly careful where sales documentation only displays mobile contact numbers or incomplete addresses. Telephone directory enquiries can assist in establishing the credibility and bona fides of the company or individual concerned.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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