Keeping an eye out

Bogus workmen
Bogus workmen

“It’s a bonny enough day but there’s nae drouth.”

So far this year the weather is doing its usual and not keeping with the plan.

Some days are sunny and dry, others frosty and crisp. In between ranges from frost to snaw then back to rain. Changeable some might say.

The odd good days recently have brought out some unsavoury characters to these parts that we generally don’t see until spring. I’m talking about unscrupulous doorstep scammers, who try to pass themselves off as reputable workmen and prey on the vulnerable.

In recent weeks, we have had a number of incidents reported where, totally out of the blue, householders have been scammed out of thousands where work on their house has either not been done at all or has been botched to look like extensive repairs.

You can probably guess that I don’t really like these ‘bogus workman’. I think of them as vultures, preying on the elderly and vulnerable and using all the tricks to rob hard cash.

“Sorry, cheques are not legal tender any more.”

“We need cash up front to get the materials.”

“You really need to get that fixed today or your house insurance will be invalid.”

It normally starts with a knock at the door. “We were in the neighbourhood and noticed your roof was sagging / bits were missing / trees were touching the power cables.”

Once they have a foot in the door, hard sell tactics come out and unfortunately, victims often succumb pretty quickly and hand over cash or are escorted / taken to the bank or cashline to get money out there and then.

Needless to say, in more cases than not, repairs were not necessary or grossly exaggerated charges are made. They are not tradesmen, they are con men.

In Angus, we are all signed up to the Angus Council ‘Scam Free Angus’ policy and we try to make it as difficult as possible for these wretched people to operate. But, often, despite our collective efforts, they succeed.

This is where we need help. I’m not asking for everyone to become a curtain twitcher or a paid-informant of the state. What I am asking is for everyone to do the neighbourly thing and look out for each other. If you see something out of place - a strange workman’s vehicle parked in a driveway or in the street and it looks out of place, give us a phone. We’ll be only too delighted to come and verify all is well, or deal with a thief or conman if indeed that is what they’re up to.

How would you feel if your elderly mother/father/relative/friend fell victim to some of these crooks? The loss of savings is bad enough nevermind the emotional hurt, loss of confidence and embarrassment most victims also endure.

If everything is genuine and above board, no harm done. In fact, the vast majority of reputable, decent and hard working tradesman welcome our interaction as it gives them confidence. Builders especially like the banter.

If you are approached in this manner, be polite but firm. “I’m not interested”, “my family deal with all these matters,” “I have a very good tradesman who does all my work.” Some key sayings which might help.

Angus Council Trading Standards department are second to none in the country for dealing with these people and are only too willing to give advice or assistance on the subject. Get them via the Angus Council access line.

And you will see over the coming weeks more of my officers out and about and stopping vans and small lorries - we’re looking for the scammers and the dodgy geezers, who we know have little regard for road traffic law as well as doing good, honest and guaranteed repairs. You get the picture.

On the subject of traffic law, stand by for a rant. ‘L’ plates are displayed on a vehicle to alert other drivers and road users that a person is LEARNING to drive.

It’s a nice way of saying, please make an allowance, drop back, and don’t put more pressure than needed on the novice as they’re only learning. It’s nice practise and it’s common decency.

It’s not a signal or invitation to tail-gate, sound your horn, shake your head, overtake in a built up area, accelerate away like the space shuttle or generally drive like a flaming idiot.

Behaviour like this could quite easily be construed as driving carelessly, without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. This is the definition under Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, contravention of which gets you dragged through the courts, a hefty fine and points on your licence.

So don’t do it. Behave yourself and drive sensibly whilst showing tolerance, patience and good driving manners to the learner driver. You just don’t know whose daughter it might be or who is sitting in the passenger seat supervising! ’Nuff said.

As always, stay safe. Over and out for now. @gordie2009