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Warning as elderly people being targeted by rogue traders this Christmas period

Gardaí as well as charities are urging people not to be caught out this year.

GARDAÍ ARE WARNING older people not to be taken in by rogue traders this Christmas and urged people to think twice before handing over any money to people calling door-to-door offering home repair services. 

Officers said that many people routinely employ door-to-door traders and warned that some of these people carry out very little work and charge large amounts of money for their services.

In some cases this could be criminal behaviour and there are common ways that these crimes are perpetrated, gardaí said.

Officers in the Southern Region, which includes Cork city and Kerry, have been especially clamping down on the fraudulent practices following a string of serious incidents.

“There are recognised and defined criminal offences for this type of behaviour and they range from criminal damage, deception, to demanding money with menaces. All are dealt with under existing criminal legislation and offenders, when caught, can be successfully prosecuted before the criminal courts, ” a spokesperson said. 

There are broadly four ways that this form of crime can be committed.

Poor Work/Excessive Charges 

This is where the scammers call to the home of a victim identified by them beforehand. This is often the home of an older or frail person living alone, gardaí said.

They will often call on the pretext of being professional roofers, guttering experts, painters or other tradespeople and try to convince the victim that repairs need to be carried out.

A spokesperson explained: “They will offer their services on the understanding that they are competent and inexpensive. 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.”

Opportunity Thefts

This is where thieves will target a particular area and offer a real or genuine service to the victim.

Once they have gained entry to the home they will look to decide if there is anything of value to buy well below the market value.

This could be furniture, paintings or other valuables. They then force their victim to sign receipts for the sale of the article secured by them. 

Bogus VAT Charges

Different members of the same gang may return at a future date to a victim’s house posing as VAT or Revenue officials. They will demand money for ‘work’ already performed by them and seek further payments.

Deposit Scams

When the criminals are satisfied that they have tricked the intended victim into engaging them for work they will demand a deposit to purchase the materials to carry out the necessary repairs. Having secured the deposit they leave and never return

ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has issued a warning for older people to be aware of scam artists and rogue traders.

Gardaí have reported numerous hoaxes in recent weeks in which the traders intentionally damage private property and then target vulnerable groups such as older people with bogus home repair services.

The organisation has stated that this is an ongoing issue for older people all year round, which was only worsened by the onset of the pandemic.